National Independents Day

So how was it for you? Did you notice? Did you boycott the corporates and the co-operatives? Shop only in your local independent store(s) – if you have any? And now it is over? Back to the old routine, I guess?

Yes, July 4th was National Independents Day. American or what?

I am not wholly sure I get such events. A cute association perhaps, raises a brief smile and some publicity (perhaps). Maybe that’s the only aim and is enough. Will it change behaviours? I doubt it. But might it make some people think; possibly. And anything that provides trade for independents, local stores and encourages their use is a good thing – well in the main and to some extent.

But perhaps we need to pause and reflect. I am old enough to remember the disastrous campaigns of the 1980s when small shop trade bodies drew attention to the supermarkets selling bread below the price at which small shops could obtain it. Guess what happened? “Use it or lose it” became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And there’s the problem with independents days. We assume consumers “get” the value of independents and localisation. But do they? Especially in these economically challenged times? Yes we have to promote enhanced retail diversity and choice in our high streets and other locations. But diversity for diversity’s sake does not do it for me – nor I suspect for many consumers.

The increase in diversity that we desire has to come because such retailers offer things that other (chain) retailers can not or do not. These elements have to be those valued by consumers. Without that, it is pointless to call for more independent shops. We need more, good independent shops (and more good co-ops and corporates).

Corporate bad, independent good is as untrue as corporate good, independent bad. Ronnie Barker’s “Open All Hours” was rooted in a reality of many independent shops.

And to get good independents, we also have to address the other side of the coin. How do we make it easier and cheaper for entrepreneurs and others to set up retail stores and operations and to take their chances in convincing customer of their value and interest? National Independents Day needs to get reactions not only from consumers but also from property owners, developers, town centre managers and all those who help create our retail landscape. Then consumers may get a broader, hopefully better choice and make their decisions accordingly.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Internationalisation and Graduate Studies.
This entry was posted in Campaigns, Consumers, High Streets, Independents, Property, Small Shops, Town Centres and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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