Loss of Small Businesses Means Loss of Community By Kelly Grehan

I have to be honest and say I have always hated shopping.  If I can buy something online, rather than venture to my local shopping centre I will.

Since the internet became popular I do buy increasing numbers of things from craft and independent retailers because I like the niche products they often stock.  

I started running a Toy Appeal five years ago, which now collects around 1,500 gifts for children assisted by local charities and it would not be such a success without the support of small businesses.  

We write to all the big multinational companies who have a shop in our town and ask for support and they inevitably reply saying they cannot help.  

Small businesses however regularly get in touch volunteering to be drop off points, running collections and donating toys, as well as sharing our social media adverts.

Now, I appreciate that big retail shops will say that they make big donations to a chosen charity and that some have a place for food bank donations, but my experience has convinced me that the loss of independent shops on the high street has meant we have lost more than just the goods or services they sold – it has caused the loss of community.  

Local businesses have a stake in the community, they are reliant on the same amenities as their customers.  

In fact research shows that £10 spent with a local independent shop means up to an additional £50 goes back into the local economy.

This is simply because the nearby shop owners, who you are spending your money with, will then put that money back into your local community by going into local pubs and restaurants etc, thus circulating the money and allowing your community to thrive.

Interestingly local employers are more likely to pay a higher average wage than their commercial chain counterparts.  

Then there is the benefit for people of going to shops where the butcher (for example) knows their name and they know his or hers.

Those small things can mean the world of difference to locals, some of which can be suffering from loneliness and don’t often have the opportunity to speak to people face to face on a daily basis. To have a chat with the local staff and feel valued by local businesses who might know your ‘usual’ coffee, or just how you like your sandwich when you pop into your local cafe, does wonders for some. Humans are social creatures after all.

So next time you have the option to ‘buy local’ , it’s really important to remember the wider benefits that small businesses have on the local community.

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, so I am pledging to think more about what I buy and where I buy it and whether I can be a better consumer for the community.

It would make the world of difference if we all could now and again.