Local shops for local people
Many of you will remember the dark humour of The League of Gentlemen, the offbeat comedy series from the turn of the millenium. Of all their sketches, the ones that stick in my mind most prominently feature Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup, and their “local shop for local people”.
The Tattsyrups insist that they must only deal with those who they’ve deemed “local” — every skit carried the immortal line “is he local?” They never sold anything. Their insular attitude perfectly encapsulated the absurdity of xenophobia.
For me, buying locally and supporting local businesses has nothing to do with an unhealthy fear of foreigners. This is not a mechanism through which distrust of outsiders can spread, but a force for positive change.
Buying locally keeps more money in the local economy, supports local jobs, reduces the impact on the environment, and helps preserve the skills of trades and crafts people.
Why I choose to buy local
To our knowledge, it is the only business networking group in the country that verifies that its members truly are local. It does this on the basis of their location, ownership, and their commitment to buying from other local companies.
The concept of buying locally is easy to understand: next time you are considering buying something, think about who you buy it from, and where it was originally made.
You don’t have to go all-out and only buy things that were made and sold in your local street; the important thing is that there is a local business involved somewhere along the chain.
What does local mean to me?
Norfolk has for far too long been the butt of many jokes, but us Norfolk-folk take it all in good spirit. We know we have something special here, and I think the fact that many people don’t “get it” straight away is what helps to preserve the unique character of our area.
Norfolk (and Norwich in particular) is a truly memorable place; a place that people from all over the world come to visit, live and work in. I’ve met people from the four corners of the globe who’ve made Norfolk their home, and they often remark upon how much they love living here.
I think it’s our distinctive approach to life that gives us an advantage in the fight against the rise of identikit culture. This is what makes Norfolk such a great place to build a successful buy local movement.
Buying and supplying
Supporting local suppliers is rewarding, and oddly addictive. And buying from local producers is also great for my business too. I’m pretty confident Tesco are unlikely to be buying a website from me anytime soon, but my local bakers might well be interested in what I have to offer.
More times than not, strolling into your local independent shop will put you directly in front of the business owner – the person who has the authority to make buying decisions – every good salesperson knows that is who you need to be speaking to if you want to make a sale.
Buy local, think global
Buying from local suppliers helps to keep more money in the local economy, enhances community cohesion, and improves living and working conditions for people in the local area. Keeping money in the local economy strengthens our native businesses and makes them more competitive in an increasingly globalised world.
The point isn’t to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, but to recognise that the quality of our lives is directly affected by the area in which we live. If we let local businesses disappear then our local area will suffer too.
The places where we live will become another part of town that people drive straight through in order to get somewhere else, and somewhere that we ourselves will want to move away from. It’s hard to build any semblance of community or feel any sense of belonging in an place like that.
Ian is a web designer and the founder of EggCup Web Design, based in Norwich. Ian believes that every person is a brand, and that businesses are citizens, and that both stand to benefit from thinking more like the other. You can follow Ian on Twitter, or circle him on Google+.