As the news that 14 shops are shutting every day on the UK’s High Streets, Explore Bedford is today launching its Shop Local Bedford campaign in partnership with the Bedford Independent. The campaign is a call to action for us all to support the retailers, cafes, restaurants and businesses at the heart of our High Streets.
As successive governments have failed to develop polices to tackle the issues facing town centres and as news of nationwide store closures hit the headlines, town centres up and down the country are facing irreversible damage. It is more important than ever that we take responsibility for the future of the High Street. Without our support – whether online or in person – the amazing businesses that make Bedford unique just will not survive.
From now until Small Business Saturday on 1 December we will be championing our many incredible #bedfordindies, as well as flying a flag for the chains that we’ve (so far) managed to retain in Bedford.
We’ll also be looking at the wider issues that are threatening town centres across the country to offer a national perspective.
To kick things off, we’re thrilled to partner with Gemma Lane of On the Map and founder of #shoplocalseptember to find out what Shop Local Bedford means to her:
I’m a pretty huge fan of the retail trade; the art of selling products to people. Whether at a market, on the high street or even online, a combination of factors including psychology, marketing and creativity are used to stimulate our senses so we spend our money in exchange for products. Now we might not all get excited about going shopping per se, but purchasing is something we should and do get enjoyment from when the conditions are right. It should be an experience, something more than retail.
After a disagreement with a ‘brown box’ online retailer, I questioned my internet shopping. Why was I using large online companies for pretty much all of my purchases (26 in 6-months from one company to be precise) and why, was I driving to collect most of them from pick-up points? Surely this wasn’t as cost effective and convenient as I had convinced myself it was?! So it got me thinking, what could I find on my doorstep? #ShopLocalSeptember was born!
Now it is worth noting that my retail career has been based in various locations, from working in shops within different sized towns, and also big shopping centres, to owning a creative business with an online shop. My childhood was also spent at markets and events with the family business, you can see why I love retail, cant you?! I don’t feel that any type of retail should be particularly avoided, it is about finding the right mix, buying the right product from the best place and getting that enjoyment and sense of achievement when parting with often hard earned cash!
During my month of challenging my internet purchases, I visited a mixture of large high street chains such as Boots, WH Smith and Debenhams within Bedford, but also spent time visiting independent retailers and businesses, including cafés and restaurants. I applied the local vibe to my businesses too where possible. I didn’t go to Milton Keynes or other larger shopping centres as I realised I didn’t need to. It was enlightening. The benefits were huge and I have continued beyond September. I am excited for a shop local Christmas and you should be too.
Lots To Offer
So shop local doesn’t have to mean small. Of course, let’s support our independent businesses, they are a big part of our future but let us also remember that the bigger names employ local people, they put money into the local area and in my opinion they do have a place on the high street. It is also worth being aware of businesses without bricks and mortar, we have some fab companies with their own sites & on Etsy, some are also stocked in local shops. It really is all about balance.
We moan about parking charges (I have been guilty of this in the past), however, I’m pretty sure when we pay to travel to bigger shopping centres we spend money on fuel and parking without batting an eyelid, so perspective is needed. If you know where to look, you can find free parking every day. Now of course, this can always be improved on, but I feel Bedford is relatively lucky compared to some towns. In my case I was traveling to collect parcels, so swapping that for a journey into town wasn’t really a big issue. My top tip is to know your location and make it work for you… My Fitbit loved me! Who knew shopping locally was so good for you?!
I primarily work from home. I spend a lot of time in the company of my cat, she’s awesome (crazy cat lady alert), but that’s beside the point. Getting out of the house, having a break from a screen to pop into town for something you need is great to help to reduce social isolation. Saying ‘hello’ to someone in a shop is simple but hugely beneficial. It’s a breath of fresh air and a real mood boost.
Talking to someone in a shop is also great if you can’t find what you are looking for (shopkeepers aren’t mind readers), it may be somewhere you haven’t looked, or if not stocked, then staff may be able to recommend another local shop who can help! Cross promotion on the high street is a fab example of the wonderful community that town centres have. Furthermore, a retailer quite probably knows their product better than you do, so tips and advice are often waiting if needed, something you don’t get as easily online.
There are so many reasons why shopping locally is awesome. This is just the beginning! Join the revolution, consider where you buy from and explore your town if you haven’t already.