Honouring our small shops

It’s time to vote with our money for the world we want to live in, to think about who or what is benefiting from our purchases and to make better decisions about where we shop.

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Hayman’s the butchers had been a mainstay of Sidmouth’s high street – with awards galore:

Haymans of Sidmouth wins nine golds at Taste of the West | Sidmouth Herald

But the owners were getting on and wanted to move on – and tried to sell the business back in 2019:

Stuart and Shirley Hayman speak of retirement plans as they put Hayman’s butchers on the market | Sidmouth Herald

Haymans up for sale – Vision Group for Sidmouth

But with no buyer, they have had to shut up shop – with very little chance of it opening again:

Hayman’s Butchers will be closing after 115 years of trading | Sidmouth Herald

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It might well become flats, but it’s closure in fact had nothing to do with the strains of the last months. As one neighbouring shopkeeper on Church Street says, we are very lucky in Sidmouth that no shops have had to close because of the pandemic.

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In fact, seaside resorts seem to be doing very well:

Staycation summer good for business | Exmouth Journal

The Great British Seaside: why UK coastal towns will always appeal

As COVID-19 hits holiday plans, deprived UK coastal towns see opportunity | Reuters

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However, some other towns and cities are not so lucky, with the craftivist Suzi Warren laying beautiful hand-made wreaths on the lintels of the shut-up shops in Camden.

She finishes her piece in the Metro thus:

I dread a future in which granite and glass monoliths strangled with ring roads replace our human-scale, multi-flavoured independent retailers as the place to buy curtain hooks and cheese.

Now that stores have reopened, we have a better idea of which ones were merely asleep during this time and which haven’t made it. And the ones that have reawakened need our help. It’s time to vote with our money for the world we want to live in, to think about who or what is benefiting from our purchases and to make better decisions about where we shop.

Are we, for instance, happy to prioritise convenience over sustainability? How do we feel about reports of giant online retailers throwing returned clothing into landfill because it’s easier than reselling it? Are we upset enough by that? By the unimaginable waste it creates and the reckless plundering of earth’s resources?

If we want to honour the small shops that died during this pandemic we should make them a pledge to shop with vigorous curiosity about how the things we buy are made. To embrace the relative inconvenience of shopping face-to-face again. To buy less often so we can afford to pay a little more for something well made for a fair wage. And to evolve as a species to eliminate the craving for immediacy and the habit of treating things as disposable.

To the independent shop keepers who have opened, I want to wish them all the luck in the world. And to the ones who haven’t, I want to remind them that it takes courage and resilience to create a business. Your shop may have been taken but your grit and your heart are a part of you and cannot be locked down.

I’ve been laying wreaths for shops that closed because of coronavirus | Metro News

   
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