Well, Skillsmart Retail and the National Skills Academy for Retail are teaming up with local retailers across the country on 4th July to celebrate Independents’ Day, championed by the formidable Mary Portas. Shoppers are going to be encouraged to buy at least one item from their local independent reatailers and celebrate diversity on the high street.
They are championing the skills great independent retailers have and they want to show the public that their local shopkeeper is not only a vital service, but someone who wears many hats; they are the accountant, sales assistant, buyer and often everything in-between. Well, amen to that ! From all of us who are getting dizzy with the multiple chameleonic roles we play in a single day this will be welcome news. This is all part of the campaign to back the high street and maintain diversity, while getting rid of the ugly eyesore empty shops.
Firstly the government appointed a retail adviser to bring back the bustle to our high streets, which was contraversial enough. It proved that there was a problem with our city centres and high streets (which we’ve all known for ages), finally, it seems that even the government noticed that.
When this new retail adviser, as her first initiative, launches a “declaration of independents” its time to sit up and pay attention. When you learn that its Mary Portas of “Mary Queen of Shops” fame, its time to take out a notebook and start taking notes !
Mary Portas is known for no-nonsense plain speaking and innovative ideas. Her ideas boost retailers enthusiasm, knowledge, skill base and earnings. With a successful retail background and a commercially savvy consultancy agency, she marries the two areas in her own unique way.
It is tough on the High Street and has been for some time. With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years, the need to take action to save our high streets has never been more obvious. Consumers have seen their discretionary income fall as the cost of just about everything has risen. So in real terms this means less money to spend on anything that isn’t a necessity.
Some retailers have fared better than others and there have been some well publicised casalties in the bigger chains. But the real story in the change of the high street has been that of the independent. Over the past 40 years Britain has changed from being a “nation of shopkeepers” with vibrant high streets, buoyant with diverse retailers, to one where the chain stores are represented everywhere, leading to charges of “Clone town”
Clone towns are not a good idea for many reasons, primarily that Independent businesses are vital to our local economies. They ensure the unique character of an area. They are more accountable to customers and the local community, more likely to support local charities and have greater direct control over the environmental impact of their businesses.
Furthermore, money spent at locally owned independent businesses goes around longer in the local economy. It yields two to four times the economic benefit to the local residents compared with non-local businesses. This means more local income, wealth, and jobs and of course the intangible aspect of community.
Supporting independent businesses creates local jobs, preserves economic diversity and safeguards the environment and that has to be a good thing. Whilst the larger stores are the anchors in our cities and towns, its the independent businesses who offer the diversity thats lacking and the mix that keeps it all interesting, as well as being a valued link in the community, which seems to be so sadly underrated and under reported.