We shouldn’t have to find reasons to shop local.
When offered the choice between contributing to juggernaut multinational enterprises or our mate Tony down the road, it should be an obvious choice to keep our hard-earned money in the local community. To support small businesses is to resist the monopolisation of the market – or, in simpler terms, to give the small fry half a chance.
Here in Exeter, our location on Fore Street is in the heart of the rogue, uncharted territory of independent businesses. It’s weird and wonderful, and we love it.
Sure, Exeter’s got its fair share of big chains, but the independent business scene here is a goldmine. Out on Queen Street, in amongst the mushroom cloud of icing sugar and the billowing aroma of Monmouth Coffee, lies the Exploding Bakery. Our very own Fore Street is home to No Guts No Glory, the evocatively-named haven of arts and apparel, plants and picture-framing. Sanchos lives here on Fore Street too, a trove of sustainable, fair-trade clothing, stunning yet wearable design and a friendly aura that comes straight out of being ex-pop-up-shop people.
Fore Street is one of the most innovative, imaginative and inspired streets in Exeter. We know that for a fact because we’re surrounded by these creative people every day. But when it comes down to crucial purchases, it can seem difficult to support small business, and all too easy to pop online or run over to the supermarkets you know like the back of your hand. We’re creatures of habit. We see the easy option, and we go for it.
But habits can change.
It all starts with being conscious of our buying habits. We are told we want fast-food, fast-fashion and fast-fulfilment of our every need. But taking time to buck trends, browse Fore Street’s shops for yourself, and make decisions which benefit a multiplicity of people will kickstart the positive reasons to shop local.
Your money goes back into Exeter’s economy. If a shop makes a profit, it puts it back into improving the shopfront, developing a community of likeminded Exeter residents, encouraging other independent businesses to dare to exist. It can even boost house prices in the area. Importantly, to support small business owners produces visible and tangible results. That’s not possible with huge corporations where the origins of your food, clothes and products are untraceable, and the profits fill the pockets of CEOs in far-off lands.
There are unique, one-off treasures waiting to be found. Our conception of what’s fashionable or ghastly is not an accident. It’s drummed into us by the big names on the high street. Shop locally: there is creativity and innovation right on EX1 doorsteps, far from Milan or Paris. Just some of the reasons to shop local are one-off-pieces, handmade items, and fresh ideas which have been nowhere near the commercial churn, and are truly, genuinely unique.
Support small business and you’ll be supporting budding entrepreneurs in the local area. Entrepreneurs don’t just crawl out of the woodwork to appear on Dragons Den and The Apprentice once a year. They exist right here in Exeter, on your road and in the centre of town. Supporting small businesses provides funding, but more than that, it gives business owners experience in customer service, visual merchandising, salesmanship and a host of other skills vital for growth. And, to top it off, you personally have the potential to gift them one of the most powerful tools in commerce: word-of-mouth in Exeter and beyond.
The environmental and ethical benefits are enormous. The impact of food miles on the environment is huge. Supermarket packaging and clothing labels reveal that some of the most basic items, which can easily be made here in Britain, have travelled thousands of miles to be purchased. Their origin, in sweatshops or from poorly-paid farm workers, is swept under the carpet. One of the most valuable reasons to shop local is that you can trace a product from conception to purchase. All you need to do to find out is ask.
So, small businesses need you. And, if you shift your consumer consciousness, you’ll start to need small businesses too.
It doesn’t have to be a political statement, but a choice to support local businesses instead of a multinational corporation changes lives for the better. You gain a high-quality product, you support locals trying to make an honest living, and you push multinational corporations to see the impact of their unethical practices.
So, the next time there’s a purchase to be made, consider Fore Street. Browse the shops on this beautiful road before going to a larger supplier. Speak to the staff and ask about where the products come from. Learn about the store’s next big projects, where your money will be going, and the impact they want to make on Exeter. That guarantee of stories, ambition and personality behind every product is one of the ultimate reasons to shop local.