As an owner of a Harrogate based company most people think that I live in Harrogate, but actually for the last 30 years apart from a spell at university I have lived in and around Ilkley.
It was a moment of great pride for me personally when we opened our Ilkley shop in August 2007 and I felt it hit all the right buttons in terms of being a local business, run by local people, serving the local community.
Over the four years since we opened I have seen major changes in the composition of the shops in Ilkley. There are now less and less “local” shops and restaurants and more and more national chains taking prominence on our high street. Next week sees the opening of the new Wetherspoons. We also have a Piccolinos, a Pizza Express and the soon to open Bistro Pierre. As for shops we have the new large Tescos, soon to be developed, along with a new Morrisons Express and rumours of a Sainsburies local. There are Costa Coffee and Cafe Nero, Dorothy Perkins, Mountain Warehouse and White Stuff to name a few more.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with these shops but what impact do they have on the local business community? How hard does it make it for Avantti or Smooth to have both Cafe Nero and Costa across the road? Has the opening of the new Boyes damaged the trade for Mortons?
The key element to me is that local business’s help stimulate the local economy. If my business does well I spend my money locally as do the people I employ and my wife and children. I saw a banner in Otley the other day which encapsulated how I feel. It simply said “shop local and Otley prospers”, the same applies for Ilkley. In my view local does not just have a geographical meaning but it is about supporting local business and business owners.
It is not only the big chains that can cause problems for local business. I get frustrated three days a week to see a fish van from Whitby pull into the Ilkley car park. Ignoring my concerns about the lack of refrigeration and other health and hygiene issues of this vehicle plus the fact that he doesn’t pay rates, rent, wages etc the very fact that he takes your cash and disappears back to Whitby to spend it in his local economy grates a little with me.
As a consumer you are entitled to spend were you wish and in all honesty even if he wasn’t in the carpark not all of those who buy their fish from him would come to me, but it does highlight to me the issues of spending your money locally with your towns local business’s. Think of it like the 70’s “Buy British” campaign but just a micro version.
Now I may be getting hot under the collar about nothing and the ownership of the shops you shop in may have little concern for you but I wonder if there is some way that you the consumers and us the business owners can work together for the benefit of the community in which we all live. Lets be honest in these testing times we need you to support us.
I am not talking just about thinks like offers, discounts or loyalty cards, although we will be introducing one of those in the near future. No I am talking about a way that benefits the town and the people directly by consumers using truly local business’s.
I am not clear exactly how it might work, perhaps a scheme where the business donates money as a proportion of the customer spend? I did try to set up a scheme to raise money for local schools by setting aside a day such as Wednesday where for every £100 spent by participating customers we would donate £5 to a local school fund to raise a total of £5000. I spoke to a couple of people at the Grammar School but the scheme never got off the ground due to a lack of interest on their part.
I don’t know but I think there could be something good that could come out of a scheme such as this.
I would be very grateful to hear your comments as to whether this is or isn’t something you are interested in.
I look forward to hearing your comments.