What kind of ‘local’ do they want us to choose? - Kevin Buckle
I read this week that the Scottish Government was backing a Scotland Loves Local campaign to the tune of £10 million. Lots of talk about supporting the high street with quotes like: “Choosing local is something we can all feel good about.”
Unfortunately though, the whole campaign carries mixed and confusing messages. To a large extent local shops are not high street shops but for the purposes of this campaign the two appear to be interchangeable.
Given this campaign is meant for all of Scotland it is aimed at places of all sizes and it isn’t even clear what they want people to do. Folk will always go to their nearest post office, newsagent or chemist, for instance, and while some are dedicated online supermarket shoppers most split their business between their local convenience store, if they have one, and a relatively local supermarket. A good local cafe will also always do well.
Are they saying if you live in a fairly large town near Glasgow you should buy all you can locally and ignore what Glasgow has to offer? If you live in Livingston, which as a new town was built around its shopping centre where a person can buy just about all they need, should they ignore Edinburgh?
By local do they mean local to where you live or also local to your place of work? One thing is for sure – these campaigns are always run by people whose livelihoods do not depend on the success of their efforts.
It was interesting that as lockdown began to ease and the economy was set to start recovering I had reason to speak to many professionals who might have some input and when I questioned why things were going so slowly the answer was always “holidays”. Yes, these people that you would hope would hit the floor running in their efforts to “save the high street” or “boost the economy” were going to make sure they had a good holiday first!
The shop local messages come over as being anti city centre shopping and it is a plain fact that if you are shopping more locally then you are shopping less elsewhere. Truth be told, the message should be more about people choosing to shop online but most see that as a lost battle so are focusing on something that looks like they are doing something while being completely ineffectual.
Record shops are of course one example where shopping local is nearly always not an option (though Portobello High Street did support its own record shop many years ago) so I am really watching this develop from the sidelines.
While nobody is sure what will happen this Christmas the thing that is most going to affect businesses of all sizes next year is the rates which simply can’t go back to what they were with all but the smallest businesses handing over huge amounts of money while seeing very little back in return.
As with the Forever Edinburgh campaign always described as “successful” by council leaders while offering no evidence, a bunch of professionals and self-serving groups will make money for themselves by preaching to the converted and making next to no difference in the real world.