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I believe this year could be a good year for the small shops, businesses and traders…and i will tell you why

strong trends towards quality, individuality and service

Supermarkets are the main competitor for any small retailer in the UK as they have diversified into every sector. They rely heavily on volume sales with easily recognised top brand products and spend a great deal of time and money on analysing shopper data to get the balance right on promotions. Like all retailers, small or large, you make a choice to sell volume goods at a small profit or sell quality products at a higher profit: supermarkets need to fill baskets!

I think public opinion of supermarkets is low in the wake of meat quality concerns and mis-labelling. This graph from ONS data for Retail Sales shows clearly the dominance of volume sales and low profit goods slipping as we passed into 2011 and the demand for higher priced and quality niche products growing strong as we leave 2013.
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I think this shows a definite trend towards quality, individuality and service, something the supermarkets naturally struggle to do and can never fully achieve. There maybe many reasons for this change in our shopping habits, but i believe strong motivations to buy are affected by;
1) Herding and Overcrowding
2) Perception of Value
3) The X Factor

queues, crowds, stress: why do we do it? are we nuts?

To illustrate my first point, take a look at the two pictures below: the top is an award winning community shop Lodsworth Larder in West Sussex http://www.lodsworthlarder.co.uk and at the bottom is a typical Tesco store. You know what i am going to say…

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….where would you rather be?
Supermarkets feed the human herding instinct to be with others like yourself, have a sense of belonging (clubcards, loyalty cards etc) and not to miss out (reductions, offers, vouchers). Many small retailers of all types (including my shop) recognise the frustration customers have in this overcrowded environment and offer a ‘holiday feel’ relaxed shopping experience. We often take the trouble to explore the quaint village shops on holiday and exciting little boutiques with new, interested and unique products, why not do this at home? It is very addictive feeling: to be relaxed, free from the stress of crowds and in control of your purchasing.

Do you really feel any better for owning a basket full of BOGOF deals?

Marketing tools have only one purpose: to make us spend more! How many times did you go for milk/bread and walk out with a £30 basket? Could you say that about your small cornershop? Do you really feel any better for owning a basket full of BOGOF deals? This is your ego being massaged, you feel good to brag about the stuff you got free!
Personally, i spent many years scooping up deals, happy until i had to use or eat the goods i had bought, upset at the poor quality or taste, and vowing never to buy cheap again. This cycle ends when you discover a small independent shop you never knew existed, and buy only what you need for a little more money, and then feel you have value because it is better than you expected (not worse!)

when shopping adds joy to your soul

My wife Jo and I love exploring little backstreets, seaside town streets, craft fayres, farmers markets and small shopping arcades. This is the best places to find the most unusual hand crafts, artisan foods, retro and antique shops. Every now and then you stumble on one treasure that really inspires you, a beautiful store full of wonders that are perfect to you and your life, this is when shopping adds joy to your soul! You take something away from the day that can never be bought at a supermarket.
We often find this shopping’ X factor’ in quite ordinary products, say like cheese or recently this christmas i discovered Spicy Tomato Chutney from The Cherry Tree at a local Food Fayre http://www.cherrytreepreserves.co.uk/Online-Shop/Chutneys/Spicy-Tomato-and-Caramelised-Onion/

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Mary Portas, the retail expert and columnist for Daily Telegraph is a great champion for the small shopkeeper who is constantly looking for the X factor in the high street. She said recently at that London Local Shop Awards ceremony of giving local shops the “recognition they deserve”.

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I think i can sum up what i am saying with; happiness is not found in endless consuming, you only need to find a few special things in your life to find contentment

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