I’m a fan of the Plymouth Shopping card that was released last year and the list of independent Plymouth shops that are on it. If you want to sign up for your own then it’s easy to do on the Plymouth Shopping site.
I don’t think I’m quiet about my love of independent shopping and I often think that the reasons why I love it must be obvious to everyone. There are so many ways that I find shopping as much as I can from independent and (often) local businesses totally rewarding but I sometimes worry that people assume I’m just being contrary and “hipster”. These are a few reasons why I don’t shop independent:
- “Because, oh my god, I can’t stand being around things that are popular. Sooo mainstream, oh my god”
- I want to be contrary and define myself by being different from the “sheep” out there.
- It makes me feel superior.
Right, now that those are out of the way, here are a few reasons why I love to shop independent and think you might as well.
Putting The Personality Back Into Shopping
If you go to the same store, getting served by a different person every single time no matter how often you return, none of which know or care who you are or about the individual business you offer them then guess how much of a cog you feel like? Chain stores don’t just take the individuality and personable service out of their shops but they also take it out of you. Go back to the same independent coffee shop a few times and I almost guarantee that someone where will start looking at you with recognition and this will allow you to (shock horror) get to know the people who are serving you.
It’s amazing how shy I felt about taking this step but independent shopping allows me to chat to the people that serve me, get to know them and what makes their business tick. Another bonus is that the average worker in an independently run business will know a massive amount about the business than in a chain, allowing you to enquire about their stock levels, upcoming deliveries and new offers. This isn’t just great for the business either, as it really adds to my shopping experience when I can really get to know the people and the business on a personal level. I’m not trying to say that those who work in large chains can’t give me a considerate and personal experience as I know many that do but I do feel that there’s only so much they are allowed to offer (think about how many staff there may be, how ham-stringed they may be by management etc.) compared to an independent business that s genuinely able to get to know me as a person.
Higher Cost Vs Higher Quality
Now, I know this isn’t as clear cut as I’m making it but I do know that chain stores don’t immediately offer better quality that you can count on. Everyone knows that a Primark outfit won’t last a year and even stores that are making you pay huge amounts for their clothing don’t even guarantee you a quality purchase. I had a friend who used to work in alterations and she was once asked to take out some Monsoon products. She was shocked to find that the skirt had barely any excess in the seams and they weren’t even interlocked. As someone who used to work in textiles, this is appalling for a company that makes you pay close to £100 for a skirt and I doubt it would have lasted. Now, I know that independent companies are even less able to guarantee the quality of their products and there are plenty of small businesses that are more that likely to stay small because of these reasons but there’s also a level of ___ that you won’t find in a chain.
This is another problem I found as a British shopper: we hate giving constructive criticisms or suggestions when we shop. But a small business craves these things and will almost always appreciate the help. This allows you the chance to help shape a business you care about and take a bigger role in their level of quality and what you would like from them. Businesses aren’t psychic and whilst I wouldn’t say a shopper has a responsibility to critique where they shop I do feel that many British shoppers don’t realise they have a right to critique and make suggestions.
More Expensive But With More Offers
It’s a simple enough process to realise that because chain stores can buy massive amounts more stock and supplies that they can offer their products at cheaper prices. But it’s also true that independent shops try harder to gain new customers and many are utilising facets such as social media to offer excellent deals. I myself got a free slice of cake thanks to my following a local cafe called Cafe Kiss in Plymouth on Twitter by going in and announcing “I love cake”, which got me free cake and them a new customer they might not have had before. Following a few local companies on Twitter of Facebook will probably gain you access to some excellent deals that they’ll offer in a bid to make them more competitive, ideal if you’re looking for a bargain.
Also don’t forget that whilst a chain may be cheaper now, if they gain a monopoly then there is no reason for their prices to remain low. I know from working in a cafe that Coca Cola raise their prices year on year and that they’re above the rate of inflation. So what spurs on this price increase? They know you’ll pay more because it’s pitifully hard to buy something that isn’t owned by Coca Cola or Pepsi when it comes to the drinks industry. Give it a go sometime, it’s enlightening.
Independent Shops = More Individual City Centre
It’s always confused me how people will complain that a City Centre doesn’t have a certain shop from a chain. For instance, I recently read a list of the ways Plymouth could improve itself and whilst I agreed with everything else the writer put, I do not feel that Plymouth City Centre suffers because there is no “John Lewis” and I feel that the whole notion of that is ridiculous. Why aim for cookie-cutter city centres, where no one has their own shops because everything is part of a chain? It’s fine to want to know what you’re going to get but a variety of shops and a range of chain stores and independent businesses gives the shopper a range of choice as well as being more versatile to the range of shoppers out there.
And let’s also not forget that every City is different, often having it’s own culture and style. A big chain that’s getting most of it’s stock from China can’t possibly know of these trends and nor do they often care. Smaller businesses are often more versatile and able to react to changes in the market far faster so it may be easier to get what you want.
So there are a few reasons why I love to shop independently as often as I can, how many other people love their local businesses?