There is a meme on Facebook just now that is promoting the concept of “Shop Local”. It states that if we all spend $100 in our local economy it would put $3billion back in. Now, I’m always wary of any “fact” that has been written on a blackboard and shared around facebook via an Australian Radio Station. We look at this, translate dollars into pounds and think all of our problems have been solved with one click on ‘share’. But in our hearts we know it’s not that easy. There are one or two more Aussies than Scots for a start.
I agree wholeheartedly with the ethos. In my head I spend my Saturday parking up my bike and wandering the streets with my hipster chick’s woven basket, visiting all the great little shops and stopping for pots of tea / icecream / lunch. I need no convincing of this concept - I’m a dyed in the wool “local is best” sort of gal. Berries are for summer. Never, ever for Christmas.
Until, that is, I run out of every food item in my fridge and cupboards and spend two hours in a midnight daze, guiltily circling Tesco, while pushing a trolley full of everything from beef mince to printer ink. Or I desperately want the beautiful shoes in the magazine that can only be bought online from Paris. Or I am sitting, sipping something cold and dreaming of that holiday in the sun NOW. Because let’s face it, we are busy; we are a new breed of product junkie; we are impatient, need it now consumers and we are a million other reasons why it’s not always possible or preferable to park up a bike and shop around the streets of Perth. I get that.
But… It is probably possible to shop around some of the streets, some of the time. And if we all did that, then we'd begin to see the effects of a little going a long way. Because I don’t know about you, but as much as I don’t like being told how to spend my hard earned cash, I have no desire to wake up 10 years from now and find out that my High Street has become some homogenised blur of pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap chains and online collection depots.
Our lives may have changed dramatically since the long, hot summers of the seventies but I know I want to take my grandchildren for ice-cream in an ice-cream parlour and sit them on my knee while a very old lady with red hair laces up their first pair of ballet shoes. I love the whole experience of a shop, of great service, the picking up and putting down of real, tangible objects while I browse and make my mind up.
And I’m pretty sure the same goes for most of you reading this. So, what do we do? How do we roll busy, 21st century lives and less-money-in-real-terms into a vibrant city centre for our home town of Perth. And, more importantly, is it up to us?
I'm not really great with the old scowling at people who shop online - for a start, you're reading this on my online magazine! But let’s say instead of spending your entire £100 shopping locally, we get a bit more realistic and spend 70% of that in Perth. At the risk of turning into a maths teacher it goes something like this:
I have been paid £100 by my client, Live Active Leisure, who chose to use a local PR business.
After only five steps, with 70% staying local my £100 has turned into £224.12 of local spend. And I still had £30 to spend on an animal onesie online.
Mmmm - I feel a bit uneasy with this. As though I may have turned into one of those hideously annoying people who spell out something really basic and then sit back waiting for applause. It appears too simplistic, almost patronising. If it were really that easy then why aren’t we doing it?
I’ve thought long and hard about this. The reason we can’t fix it by doing one simple thing is because it’s not really any one thing. It’s a whole mix of things, and although there may be a great many solutions to individual problems (pay on exit parking, that’s all I’m saying) there is no one, big, sticking plaster that will fix it all.
This doesn’t mean we should just lie down and take it. Simple, obvious ideas are often highly effective when put into motion sensibly. We need to get a bit more inventive with our collective marketing , keep the message positive and all pull together. Oh dear god…. Can I have P... (p) E… (e) R…
I know it sounds Ra Ra Ra but cast your mind back to the good old days; remember when we shouted about Perth and its compact city centre, the higher-than-average mix of independent retailers and restaurants, the people and the service? It went something like this: “In Perth you can find something different, something special, a day out that won’t be a replica of a.n.other city centre. We are fricking dos! Come and spend a day with us!”
Like a proud parent with a child who spoke five languages and sung in perfect pitch, we held up these little shops and pubs and restaurants and claimed our bragging rights as we paraded around in front of the rest of the country proclaiming at just how bloody marvellous we were. And we were right to do this – play to your strengths at all times, show them your ace (or you’re ace – both work in this instance!).
Now, and brace yourselves for this, because it’s a shocker. All of this is still true. Yes, there are empty units but there are also amazing shops and boutiques and independent bars and restaurants. Still standing, still trading and still breathing life into our city centre. (You just have to move a wee bit further than the High Street and South Street!). There are businesses such as Marians of Perth, Manifesto, Greyfriars Bar and The Italian Corner who have been trading for over 20 years a piece. Add to this other long-standing, award-winning retailers and restaurants such as Fun Junction, Pretty Things, Boo Vake, E-Computers and North Port and you will find that our city remains its unique, quirky and compact little self.
In short, we have all the right ingredients to be one of Scotland’s favourite destinations. So how about as well as chucking 70% into the local pot (or 50%, or 20% or whatever you can afford) we all decide to start talking Perth up. Love your new shoes from Arabesque? Get them on Facebook! I want to see your cheeseboard tagged with Provender Brown’s name.
I don’t need to see another meme about “shop local”. SHOW ME where you have been shopping locally. And that includes you, independent retailers and PKC councillors - put your money where your mouth is and show me where you shop on a day off! Whether its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or good old fashioned word of mouth you need to tell everyone about that lovely girl in The Bean Shop, the service in Pharos Parcel, the pizza in Grande Italia, the cocktails on Parklands Terrace and all the other amazing reasons that make a day shopping, eating and enjoying Perth so fantatsic.
And, becasue we're not stupid and know there are frustrations out there, if as a shopper you think parking is a nightmare, or the shops look tired, write to your local councillor or MSP or MP instead of getting into another rage or complaining. Demand some change from the people you have elected to make change.
It is a bit idealistic I know. But it’s not impossible. And if we don’t do it, no one else will.
Let’s start here – you can leave a message to tell everyone one great thing about your favourite shop, bar or restaurant. Or why not let go with any positive ideas you have for our city centre?
It’s time to start a little #PerthLoveFest. Use the hashtag folks – and let’s set a new trend! Find out how to get involved - click here!
Sharon Colburn started her business, Arabesque Dancewear, as an 18-year-old just trying to find out what she wanted to do with her life. Thirty years on, she's still going strong.
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