8 June 2017


Today, it was the General Election and that made me think about the way people vote, whether tactically, or with their heart, or any other method they choose. I thought about how important voting is and then I thought about how we vote with the pound in our pocket for the shops that we want on our high street, every single time that we go shopping and every single time we buy something.

When we first moved to Shepton Mallet, I was riding on the crest of a wave of organising over twenty one Shock Cash Mobs in the Enfield area, where at least £100 was re-directed in the course of each mob into the businesses of local traders. The Shock Cash Mob campaign captured the headlines in our local press, when we were based in Enfield and even resulted in TV and Radio interviews and the idea spread across the UK, with copy cat Shock Cash Mobs being set up by others independently of me!

Then when we moved to Shepton Mallet, we discovered there was less disposable income and people were not able to just traipse into a store waving their tenners and buying lots of goodies and there were just less people in general, available to join in this mad and merry scheme. I like to go with the flow and not flog a dead horse, so I stopped that and I have been keeping my mind open to something else. Something that I could do in my business, as an individual, that would help already loyal customers and friends to make sure that we make a profit and we are still around in the months and years to come and today, I realised that I have been doing just that very slowly and redirecting money that might have been earmarked for a supermarket, into our little store instead. I don't know if you already know but in the 6 months up to the beginning of this year, we only broke even. There were no wages for us, we were depending entirely on our tax credits and also on housing benefit. We are still in the same situation but we are now tweaking things and we will start making a profit. We would love to be able to pay our own way, at least starting off by being able to pay our rent for our home.

Over the nearly four years that we have been open here in Shepton Mallet, some of our customers have noticed that they can enjoy supporting us even more by choosing something that they might usually buy from a supermarket and getting it from us instead. Maybe a bar of chocolate, maybe a some Miso Soup, maybe some tea bags, maybe a specially made up gift basket. We generally try not to stock exactly the same things as a supermarket, as we are here to fill a gap in the market, a certain niche, however, there is a little overlap here and there and supermarkets do go and check out what local stores are selling and if successful, they then stock those items. So, we always have to be one step ahead and one of the things I love doing is researching new products and recipes and visiting trade shows! 

I am creating a campaign that will not only help me and my shop but that others in Shepton Mallet can replicate and perpetuate. It is a simple campaign that hinges on the use of a hashtag phrase, that we can use across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and generate support from our loyal customers and remind them to spend mindfully and to support their community directly by swapping at least one thing they would usually buy from a supermarket, to buying it from a small, independent and local business instead! It's not a case of totally abandoning the supermarkets either, they are there, they provide employment, they are convenient, they fill their own gap that a small family business cannot fill in the same way. I believe there is room for the big corporations and the little businesses too. This is not a fight, it's more about making people aware of their choices and the power they wield with that little shiny pound coin, I do especially like the design of the new ones!

We will be the first shop in the UK to launch #SupermarketSwap on 9th June 2017, on the very day that the election results are known. We know that as other independents in Shepton Mallet see how we increase our sales, they in turn will make use of the phrase #SupermarketSwap and encourage their customers to divert their pounds into their local store instead of habitually spending in the supermarkets and chain stores! 

Any small, independent, local business is free to take this campaign and use it for themselves, please comment here and let us know how you are doing.

If you know a small business owner, please share this blog with them and let them know about the power of the #SupermarketSwap.

If you are a small business owner, please use this phrase and share with your customers what you have that other people could drop from the supermarket and pick up from your shop!

Get it from your local shop!

We are just saying that if you are in a supermarket, put one item down and get it from your local shop. If you are in a local shop, think about your shopping for the week, what do you need to get? What meals are you making, what clothes do you need, what gifts do you need? Then get one more thing than you usually would, from that little shop. That one extra thing makes such a massive difference to the viability and sustainability of that one little business. 

So, even if you might have felt that voting today was hard, or you felt like you might not have made a difference, all I can say is that it is really important to vote and it is really important too, to realise that you get to vote about the changing face of your high street and your local economy nearly every single day.

Don't forget to vote!

Update 27th June 2017:
Thank you to The Shepton Mallet Journal for covering this story!

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