Posted on 10 May 2016
This week I'm afraid I'm really quite miffed! As anyone that knows me will testify, I am normally a mild-manned, easy going person. But I heard something this week on Radio 4 that got me aerated. It was about a subject very close to my heart - encouraging shopping local, or rather not encouraging shopping local. Let me explain...
Michael and I are very big Archers fans, and we were listening to the podcast from Wednesday 21st April. For you non-Archers fans out there... You need to start listening! Trust me here - it's addictive. What other show takes you from psychological abuse and attempted murder, to the benefits of herbal lays and direct drilling, I ask you? Anyway, there are two prominent characters at the moment, Lillian Bellamy - a hard-drinking 'merry widow' who is not-so-well-off after her long-term partner Matt ran off to South America with all the cash (no way he would have done that, he loved her to bits), and Justin Elliot - an agricultural tycoon and wannabe 'Lord of the Manor'. Justin's wife doesn't understand him, so of course he's asked Lillian to be his part-time PA. We all know where that story-line is headed...
So, Justin is renting Lillian's 'The Dower House' property in Ambridge, and Lillian is helping him furnish it. They decide to go to 'Underwoods', the independent department store in the fictional county town of Borchester. During the episode in question we catch up with Lillian and Justin testing a bed by bouncing on it vigorously and laughing (as you do with your PA). They then congratulate themselves on finding lots of lovely furniture and beds, and Justin suggests they order everything there and then. Good man! But Lillian, get this, Lillian says, "No, let's go home and order everything on-line, it's much cheaper!" And they do!!
This is a classic case of 'show-rooming' (trying a product in a shop then buying it from someone else on-line), something that would ultimately lead to a derelict High St if left unchecked. Needless to say, Lillian Bellamy is now even more unpopular in our house than Rob Titchener (one-time mega-dairy manager, he gave that up to concentrate fully on physically, sexually and mentally abusing his wife Helen. As a result he's now recovering from alleged attempted murder by said wife Helen. Like I said, you need to start listening). Apart from anything else, buying 'big ticket' items such as beds and furniture on-line is a risky business. A small independent like us can offer superb after-sales support, with any issues being sorted out face-to-face and with sympathy and understanding. Plus you get to deal with friendly, engaging and (most importantly) local people, safe in the knowledge you are also contributing to your local economy. This is turn helps to keep your High St strong and healthy, preserving the character of your town.
I was so upset by what I heard on The Archers I was moved to complain to the Beeb, and below is my missive:
I am the owner of a small, independent, family run home furnishings store in the heart of the Suffolk market town of Woodbridge, one which has of late been under threat from large, out of town or online chain stores who benefit from cheaper rent and rates and free car parking.
Not ones to "rest on our laurels", we have worked very hard over the last five or so years to encourage our customers to shop locally, supporting their vibrant high street thus ensuring its long term viability. We promote our friendly expertise and excellent personal service, and we're very active in the community. We also sponsor many local events and charities and champion the fact that for every £100 you spend locally, £50-£70 stays in the local economy. If you spend on-line, only £5 remains.
My fiance and I absolutely love "The Archers", and are totally addicted to its storylines, spending hours discussing who's who and what might happen next, The Archers encompasses everything we hold dear - traditional values such as the importance of the family, home and community. I was therefore stunned and dismayed to hear Lillian say to Justin "don't buy at Underwoods, we'll go online - it's much cheaper", after spending some time trying out beds, etc in store.
What an absolute travesty this sounded to us! It would have been an excellent opportunity for Justin to respond "no Lillian, let's support our local store, we've just received fantastic personal service from their assistants, and I want to spend my money locally. In any case my good friend Terry Underwood would never play golf with me again if I went online! He's always telling me how it would destroy Borchester high street if all their customers tried in store and then went online to buy!!!"
We are extremely proud of our standing in the local community, and our place right at the heart of Woodbridge's handsome high street. Please re-dress the balance by getting back to the traditional Archers values of community and keeping it local!
Phew! If definitely felt better after I'd sent that off. No response as yet, but I will keep you updated...
Just in case you, Dear Reader, are still not convinced on the importance of shopping local, I've included a quote and short video on this vital topic from our very own website:
We are, and have been now for a few years, facing some real challenges and threats to our town centre. Recently a couple of well known chain stores have set up in nearby out of town retail parks. We really feel Woodbridge is such a beautiful, vibrant and eclectic town centre which is now in real need of support. Unless people continue to shop, eat, drink and spend time in this wonderful town we are in real danger of losing it. We welcome healthy competition, but please, please keep supporting your local shops in Woodbridge town centre. The alternative is a closed, deserted high street, just like lots of other great British towns, which have succumbed to out of town retail parks and on-line shopping. As the saying goes, “Use it, or lose it!
In case you needed a bit more persuasion, have a look at this short video giving you the Top 10 reasons to shop local.
Rant over for this week, but before I sign off here are a few quick reminders of up-coming events:
Barretts Spring Sale ends this Saturday 14th May.
Queen's Birthday Celebration Street Fair in Woodbridge this weekend
Barretts Yard Sale this Saturday 14th, 9.30am to 12.00pm in the car park at the rear of the shop
- Woodbridge 10k this Sunday, 15th May - come on "Team Barretts"!