The UK Government have today launched their ‘shop local week’ with the intention of enticing people back to their local shops during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with a large amount of both England AND Scotland STILL under ‘local lockdown’ conditions and not allowed to travel more than a few miles, it seems a bit counter-productive.
To help convince the public that going to the local supermarket is a good idea, the government has produced eight “reasons” why you should all shop local this week.
I wanted to have a look at these ‘reasons’ and see how based in reality they are!
1. Help the high street and support the local economy
Shopping at local businesses pumps money into the local economy, and by spending money in their local shop, restaurant, café or pub, shoppers can do their bit to aid our national recovery across the country.https://www.gov.uk/
While it is a true statement that ‘shopping local’ directs money back at the local ecconomy, to say that it ‘pumps money back into the local economy’ is an but of an over-statement.
Shopping local puts money into the pockets of the businesses in question, but then what? How much of their profit is actually going back to the ecconomy and how much is going into the owners dividends?
2. Save jobs – and create even more
Supporting our high streets creates jobs in local communities, supporting often young and disadvantaged people to find employment. Helping to grow the number of jobs in our local areas makes for a better place to live and work, which then creates a healthy economy for the community.https://www.gov.uk/
We are only at the second ‘reason’ and already we have devolved into complete, unverifiable rhetoric. The claim that supporting our high streets creates jobs in local communities is simply unprovable; If this was the case our highstreets would be buzzing when the reality is that they are Not!
I can only speak about the city I live in, Aberdeen. Here, the majority of people who work on “the high-street” stay miles from the city centre; MILES FROM THAT ECCONOMY, with many of them living completely outside the city in another region entirely. This happens in most towns and cities.
3. Great deals
People might be surprised to see just how competitive the prices are in your local shops. Independent retailers often reward regular customers, while others often provide great deals that can’t be found in major outlets – meaning people save money as they spend. Consumers can also save money eating out – the Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme is being provided by the government, saving diners up to £10 per head on eat-in meals on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in one of the 73,000 participating businesses.https://www.gov.uk/
This claim is an attempted at promoting the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme.
4. A safe way to shop
Businesses across the country have been following government guidance and implementing a range of measures to ensure people are safe while they shop, such as customer limits inside the store, plastic partitions at tills and hand sanitizing stations.https://www.gov.uk/
Sure, shops can make things safer, but is it really safe?
5. Preserving the heart of the community
A thriving high street is key to boosting the potential of a village or town where people can socialise as well as shop. Local businesses also generate revenue to support council services such as libraries, parks and roads that benefit communities across the UK.https://www.gov.uk/
Simply put, the heart of any community is not judged or measured in how much money they spend. It is a bit rich of Government to talk about generating revenues for libraries and community services when the last 10 years of Tory cuts and underfunding has lead to a large amount of them to close in both England and Scotland.
6. Spoilt for choice
Small and local businesses often stock items which are made locally and aren’t available elsewhere else, providing a great range of choice and unique products that bring much-needed originality and variety into communities – including rare finds and items that aren’t mass produced.https://www.gov.uk/
What every one of these reasons seems to ignore is that the INTERNET exists, and most local business will have a form of web presence. The assertion that the only way people can support local businesses is by visiting their shops is total nonsense.
What would help businesses more at this time would be more business rates relief, rent relief, council tax relief; you know, things that remove the need for businesses to put themselves in unnecessary risk.
Government has spaffed literally hundreds of millions of pounds on PPE that was not fit for use. If the government put some of that money towards helping ‘local business’ to move to a remote work/delivery services we could all be using our local services without guilt-tripping the public out of their homes, to help a few businesses that have most likely never done anything to help them!
7. A better shopping experience
Small businesses are often run by people who live nearby. As the UK continues to recover from the pandemic, the experience of buying locally from a friendly face offers a dose of normality that many people may have missed.https://www.gov.uk/
Does my local shop have a search function?
Does amazon have security guards that follow me around because I wear a hoody?
Can I order obscure tools at 8 pm and have it delivered in under 12 hours from my local shop?
Can my local shop ensure that I will not brush past some anti-mask loon that believes COVID-19 is a myth?
The answer to all 4 is a big fat NO!
8. Help the environment
Local shops often source their goods locally, helping to reduce their carbon footprint. When shopping local, people are also more likely to walk or cycle to get there – doing their bit to reduce air pollution, reduce traffic and improve the quality of the nation’s high streets.https://www.gov.uk/
This last ‘reason’ is the icing on governments rhetoric cake. When all else fails just makeup something that sounds environmental!
While it is obviously correct that ‘some’ people ‘MIGHT’ be inclined to walk or cycle to a ‘local’ shop it is also a fact that many others WILL drive to the shop!
What this statement about ‘helping the environment’ also ignores is the weekly shop, which in most cases involves buying enough food and supplies to keep an entire family fed and washed daily. Do the government really think people will WALK to the local supermarkets for their weekly shopping?
How exactly does Government expect people to get their shopping home? Telekinesis, Teleportation, or will they be using a form of carbon creating transport?
The great thing about online shopping is that it genuinly does lead to less carbon bring created and released into the atmosphere. Every delivery truck can deliver shopping for multiple families in one trip. COVID-19 or not this is one of the most carbon-efficient ways of shopping.
Most of the UK has been in lockdown since the end of March, and it is most likely that we will be BACK in national lockdown before the end of Summer. Businesses who are still struggling should be receiving assistance from government to help them innovate their business, OR they should be receiving the appropriate help so that when the time comes they can reopen safely.
What businesses do not need right now is a government who is happy to warp truth so that it can, in turn, be used to justify their ideological need to ignore the world around them.
Any business who ignores the reality of the pandemic and follows Governments advice and rhetoric risk damaging their business in the long term. People have memory and people WILL remember those who were happy to put profit over public safety.
Trust cannot be easily repaired.