Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is it all over for local shops?

I happily clicked to like this picture when it was shared on facebook recently, thinking it encapsulated a lot of the problems with Internet retailing. But I was being a hypocrite. Most years, I visit the lovely town of Bandon which hosts craft food shops and specialist suppliers about four times. This year the recession and lack of time mean my first visit was today. It takes about 15 euros worth of diesel and and hour and a half of my time to visit Bandon.

The rot set in a couple of years ago when they introduced parking meters. Approaching the town today, it took about 15 minutes queuing to get as far as the parking meters due to a complex project improving the town's sewerage. There seemed to be a Guard on expensive duty directing traffic around the sewerage project.

Then I went to a favourite specialist store. The notice on the door warned customers that no credit was being offered to anyone. The shop looked great, but the staples, the basics that make me visit it a couple of times a year weren't there. Favourite brands had been replaced by ersatz, cheap and cheerful products.

I intended to carry out five transactions, justifying the trip. I achieved one. The product cost 11.50 in the shop. It is 8.95 online, but online delivery (where I could have carried out three of the five transactions) costs just 6.95 - way cheaper than my diesel. If I spend over 100 euros the delivery is free.
I think local specialist retailers - including specialist fast moving goods like food and garden plants - now have a serious problem. I won't be visiting Bandon again any time soon.

This tipping point has consequences though - particularly in terms of people who are older or have literacy problems, and for tax income in small countries like Ireland. Let's not mention working conditions in the call centres for Internet customer service. I realised today I can't support local businesses any more - I don't have that extra time and money. But I will seek out and use small, specialist Internet retailers, many that are in reality local businesses, ahead of the multiples whenever I can.

No comments:

Post a Comment