How are we going to help to save our small businesses?
As part owner of a small yoga leggings empire, (I like to joke that I am one leg of Yoga Leggs) I have to say that in recent months the demand for our products has been quite overwhelming. We are very grateful and feel extremely lucky that our little online business has had the opportunity to keep going and with the help of royal mail we have been able to fulfil your stretchy spandex wishes.
I am literally just back from dropping stock at one of our local high street stockists, who is allowed at the moment to open up her doors on a click and collect basis for a short window of time and chatted with a lady outside that was itching to go inside and browse, which of course she couldn’t. She said that she was on her way back from Tesco, she said it was rammed (her words). The boutique in question was empty, spacious and occupied by one member of staff, the owner.
So for many years my husband and I used to open shops, retail is kind of in our bloodstream. Before we brought tiny humans into the world we were enthusiastic workaholics. I think we’ve tried to sell pretty much anything and everything at some point (inflatable chairs were fun) in all manner of premises and areas, indoors and out.
Yes owning your own business gives you a sense of pride and you might think freedom as you are ultimately in charge of your own destiny. You get to choose you’re working hours and colleagues, you get to create and dream and bring something unique to the table. You get to be your own boss. Your imagination can run wild. What you probably won’t get is RICH! Oh and those working hours will be long and days off won’t be many let me tell you. So much for freedom when you’re tied to a ten year lease!
Back in the day long ago people walked to their local shops and purchased what they needed from friendly shopkeepers. Yeah I’m sounding really old now I know. The supermarket culture made us lazy, how wonderful we can grab everything we need and don’t need in one visit under one roof. Good bye butcher, see you later green grocer so long florist. It’s nice isn’t it, convenient, cheaper? We are all so busy working these days time is precious right? Is it cheaper really or do we end up spending more I know I go in for a quick meal and come out with five bags, the tempting strategic placement works every time. We’ve been groomed to buy more.
I am not writing this to beat up big business, not much point there; and as Marks and Sparks benefits greatly from the proceeds of my Yoga Leggs salary it would be hypercritical of me to pretend I am not one of the many that congregate in their aisles filled with delicious treats.
What I want to reflect on is the fact that from previous firsthand experience I know that running a business from premises is bloody hard. It is a labour of love. You will feed that monster with your blood and guts. You will probably invest all savings and a small fortune into the start up (this money you will never see again), you will hire people probably your friends and family and then feel obligated to provide them with a regular wage. You will shell out a fortune on extortionate rent and rates. You will pay for electricity and wi fi and bank charges. You buy stock and then new stock and then more stock, you will never have enough stock even when the shop is full of stock. You will then pay tax bills that you probably won’t be able to afford. You will pour your heart and soul into this business, this dream that you love.
You know your customers stories, their tastes, and their holiday destinations. You hear about their good and bad times and you drink it all in. You are part of a community, a friendly face that invests back into the customer because they invest into you.
These are bleak harsh times for our small businesses, for our local gyms and yoga studios. Our shops and pubs and favourite restaurants and our salons have taken a mighty blow. These people that sign themselves up and take a risk are just normal everyday people, trying to pay their bills like you and me. They don’t show any huge profits or have share holder meetings and marketing experts. How would our local high streets look without them? I think pretty sad and derelict.
It’s no secret that I am a technophobe, my other half thinks it’s weird that I bypass the self service tills and would rather stand in a queue and be served by an actual human. But I love human interaction and it scares me slightly that everything of late is steering us even further away from it, my refusal to play may make me appear outdated but I am holding out. We are being forced into a world of everything online I miss letters and cash and chatting. Call me old fashioned I hate being bombarded with emails they over whelm me (there is no hope for me is there?).
So what can we do in a world that makes Amazon prime so tempting and easy? I guess we just need to really look around us, we need to imagine how our local communities might look without the little shops that we love, we need to see if it’s possible to show them some love when we can again. We need to help keep their dreams going and invest in them. We need our children to know that although its bloody hard work and you won’t get rich, you can still be your own boss if you so desire to torture yourself in that way. Money is so overrated anyway. We need to see people.
Lots of love as always,