The juggernaut against independents

Thousands of local businesses have been hit by the supermarket juggernaut, which now sells everything from car insurance and cat food to books and bank loans.

As its grip on the high street tightens, local shops are disappearing at the rate of 11 a week.

So reports British newspaper webiste mirror.co.uk in an article by Damien Fletcher (no relation) today.

The article goes on to list businesses in one suburb which claims have been SHUT FOR GOOD BY A RETAIL MONSTER.

Newspapers tread a fine line here. On the one hand they need the national chains because of their advertising spend while on the other independent retailers employ more people as a ratio to turnover. Independent retailers, on the basis of this metric, are better for the economy. Independent retailers are also the keepers of community – they do more to connect people in a community than the branch of a national chain. Whereas the chain might put dollars on the table, the independent retailer is more likely to interact with the community.

The national chains such as Tesco, the target of the Mirror article, will not go away. Nor should they – they have expanded legally and their profits flow to the shareholders.

What we need is a campaign which better educates consumers, landlords and government about independents. Such a campaign might delay the march of the majors or help find alternatives. Such a campaign could focus on the importance and value of choice. Look at video distribution and what happened when independents were wiped out and a few major brand outlets took over – the range of titles fell and prices fluctuated less than when the channel was controlled by independents.

Comforting news in consideration of the value of independent businesses, and specifically retailers is a survey detailed in this report by The Scotsman.

The survey, involving 2,200 people, found 72.1% took the view that shopkeepers understood best the needs of their communities

No matter whom you ask people want independent businesses to flourish ahead of their much bigger brothers. It’s a pity that this oft expressed want does not translate into enough sales rung in at registers in independent businesses.

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