This week, we are linking with our Johnston Press sister titles across the UK to urge readers to Shop Local, Eat Local, Play Local.
Our town and city centres are the lifeblood of our local communities and vital to their success in the future are the local independent retailers - some four million around the country - who offer a unique range of goods and services.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will be focussing on some of those vibrant businesses as well as explaining just how you can play your part, but the essence of the campaign is just as our slogan says - ‘Shop Local, Eat Local, Play Local’.
Here, editor Paul Richardson encourages us all to buy something extra from our high street...
Every high street in the country has been hit by the recession in recent years, and it is not only the small independents which have felt the crunch, with many once household names now also missing from our shopping experience.
Woolworths, Adams and HMV have all disappeared from town centres... and many of these sizeable units remain depressingly empty, with larger retailers seemingly less confident to take up prime spots, which at one time used to be so sought after.
Other retailers, like JJB Sports and Marks and Spencer, have re-trenched.
There is, unfortunately, evidence of that in Grantham, though there are also signs of a comeback; not the least of which is the news that M&S is on the way back after four years.
A number of factors have contributed to this, not least the internet. How many of you have popped into a local branch or independent to ‘check out the goods’ as it were before looking online to see if you can source the item cheaper?
There are even apps available for smartphones which allow you to scan items’ barcodes and instantly take you to the site offering the cheapest price. You can’t blame people who do just that, but have they really thought it through?
When you get new windows fitted to your home or tyres for the car, do you go with the first quote you get? No. You’re told to get at least three – and pick the best price/quality. Surely what people are doing on the high street is an extension of that?
So, clearly, there is an incentive and, indeed, a responsibility, for town centre stores to remain competitive and offer great deals as well as service.
The ability to adapt in ever-changing times has also helped keep them at the heart of the shopping community.
Plenty have also responded to customers’ requests. The ‘can’t see what you want on the shelves? We’ll order it in for you’ attitude and generally going the extra mile all help to keep return business coming through the front doors.
Many have also embraced new technologies, not least the internet which, as has already touched on, has often been blamed for permanently pulling the shutters down on businesses, but has also helped to open up a whole new market for many.
We, the shoppers, also have a responsibility to the high street. We can all moan about it, but if we get behind our independents, we can have a positive influence.
We know sausages from the butcher taste better than the pre-packed ones you can buy off the shelf - but we may skip the local butcher because it’s easier to get everything in one go.
So, I would urge all who read this to do one little thing to support our town centre. Just try to buy one extra item a week from a town centre retailer.
Whether that’s a fresh loaf of bread, a new shirt, or a gift for a loved one, collectively, if we all did this little thing, we can make a difference.
This will certainly be my aim from now on and I would urge you all to join me and enjoy the Journal’s Shop Local, Eat Local, Play Local campaign!