The social cost of “I can get it cheaper online”

To walk a mile in a Retailer’s shoes.

After twenty years trading from the safety of the supplier’s bunker we took our place on the frontline with a small pop up shop in our local 1970’s wind tunnel of a shopping precinct. This toe dipping experiment was only for eight weeks in the run-up to Christmas.
We hoped the experience would do a number of things.
Make us millionaires.
Inspire new artwork with a little solo art exhibition.
See how we can help our own retail customers.
Some of the wisdom we discovered confirmed what we already knew.
That location really IS everything.
Our little unit was tucked down the side of an alleyway, off the main thoroughfare and next to a Chinese takeaway.
Passing trade was light, unlike the scales reading after two months of deep fried spring roll consumption.
Advertising is very important and we used all avenues known to man throughout the eight weeks.
With our company name being “the little dog laughed” and the heavy bias to all things doggy we found the most effective advertising was placing our A4 laminated posters in close proximity to poo bins.
Old school still works and pride is overrated!
However, it was the unknown we discovered that really got the old grey matter bursting into action.
Shop life is ripe for comedy fodder, it’s not just doctors and hairdressers who are party to the most intimate details of customers lives. Shop owners also have to grow a big listening ear, hold a straight face and gamble on the pros and cons of giving free untrained therapy advice.
The constant news on the changing face of retail and the death of the high street was very much in focus, especially on the days when only two people came through the door. (And one of those wanted to know if we fixed computers.) Trading times are indeed tough.
Of course, it is for us to adapt and think beyond the norm but it’s the social cost of the “I can get it cheaper online” mindset which struck us most.
Many small independent retailers are experiencing shoppers using them as a product touch and feel test centre, checking the details and then ordering it online. Clothing and homeware are particularly vulnerable to this practice.
Now don’t get us wrong, we have no issues with canny shoppers and people making their hard-earned pennies stretch further, but this bargain hunting does come at a human price.
As well as being very rude and rather soul destroying for all the hard work and man hours retailers put into sourcing their products, it’s a fact that money spent in local businesses stays in the local area. Life really is better when you love where you live.
Local businesses support community projects, schools, and youth sports. Local shops and cafes help ease the loneliness and isolation that affects all age groups, not just the elderly.
Saturday jobs give youngsters experience and people skills. In a nutshell, gift shops provide far more than a funny card or a printed scarf.
Which got us to thinking about our third aim, how can we help our retail customers?
Creating imagery and graphics is easy for us and many of our customers have neither time, Applemacs or subscriptions to design programs.
So we rustled up some ideas to be used freely by anyone wishing to raise awareness (in their shops and on their social media platforms) on the value and importance of shopping local.
The message needs to be clear but without the sound of desperation or pity. Our efforts are just a starter for ten and we’d welcome anyone’s views and suggestions.
We are happy to create them if the demand is there and you are all most welcome to download and print or post your favourites.
If any of this is of interest then do feel free to contact us at using the subject title #shoplocal.


  1. What a lovely idea, how kind to use your experience to help others. I had a shop in France and some days I had no customers at all… But yes I did do a little dance when someone spent lots! On behalf of shopkeepers, thankyou x

  2. It really hit me how much my local shops meant when we moved house.I became invisible on the high st No one to say Hi not seen you for ages or ask after the grandkids or remembered the dress I bought for the wedding in a little boutique when I returned for another treat Was it admired?. Do you want a coffee while you browse?The 60 yrs of being a pal to many had gone and I felt very lonely and isolated.
    Our New town is now all £1 shops and charity shops. I’ve built up a few acquaintences in shops to say hi to so don’t feel as invisible on the high st but miss my feeling of belonging which I realise now the small shops played a great part in.
    I have to buy online because of the lack of shops where I am but there’s no fun in that and most of it goes back as its usually poor quality or a bad fit That was something that never happened when I bought local.My best pals now seems to be the post office staff.

    • Hello Janis
      Lovely to hear from you although sorry to read your move has had a downside. Fingers crossed with a bit more time the new town will produce a few more friendly faces. I’ve often read about the importance of the local post office for social interaction but had no idea how all the small independents also play their part. Thank you for taking the time to read my post, it had been niggling away at me ever since we finished the pop-up.
      Take care, Anna Danielle

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