Has time run out for high street?
That was the headline in the Shepton Mallet Journal on Thursday November 6th, after the closure of yet another shop on Shepton Mallet’s High Street. Shepton Mallet was the location of the BBC’s series “Turn Back Time” a few years ago and was chosen, I believe, for the fact that there were more empty business premises in Shepton Mallet than anywhere else. The series traced the history of the high street and retail to the present day. Shepton Mallet’s High Street is not alone in its decline. The same story can be seen all over Britain as shopping trends change. And now are we also witnessing the decline of those retailing giants that, a few years ago, seemed to be impregnable?
The “Turn Back Time” series not only witnessed the affect of shopping trends on the individual stores on the high street, but also the marketing efforts of those individual stores. Some of the store owners were marketing wizzards and managed to attract customers to their businesses. Others were woefully inadequate and their sales suffered as a consequence. The series also showed the affects of customer service and product quality on businesses. I know that the shopkeepers of Shepton Mallet have attempted a number of initiatives to attempt to increase the footfall on their high street, but have seen only modest outcomes at best. The truth is that many local businesses have inadequate marketing plans and wait for the customer to find them.
However, this piece is not about the marketing of businesses, which I shall tackle in a future article, but about businesses using local businesses to fulfil their own needs. The vast majority of small businesses supply to a local community, whether that be to the consumer or other local business. I am a passsionate believer in using local suppliers for my needs. It was something that I promoted as the chair of the Yeovil and Mendip branch of the Federation of Small Business and why I became a franchisee of Aspire, an organisation that promotes and supports micro shopping comunities. I have met many of the readers of this article at local bussiness networking events where we have endeavoured to form realationships conducive to promote our businesses. A strong local business community, and indeed a strong local community in general, helps all of us. Over sixty percent of money spent in the local community stays in the local economy; a far higher proportion that money spent elsewhere, whether that be in a national or international chain or over the internet with one of the mega suppliers. I am sure that you agree that that can only be good for all of us. I am not saying that you should accept a substandard level of service or pay through the nose and in my experience that is not the case anyway, but that you should support local bussiness wherever possible.
So, when you next make a purchase, be that a personal or business one, keep it local!