Friday, January 11, 2013


 My first retail experiences in this remote area many years ago, were very different to the big city I had come from with all its choices and business competition.  Everything retail cost more than anywhere else, apart from what was available in Woolworths (R.I.P), and one chain white goods store, long since gone. Everything seemed to me to be heavily over-priced.  Festive periods were another time to supplement prices. Add to that higher fuel prices, and I felt that I had arrived in an expensive remote estate where life was different to my real world I had left behind.  

I had a disagreement with one grocery chain store soon after I arrived in the area, it treated its customers and staff, abominably. A submissive population changed overnight. The other grocery store moved to larger premises and provided well for its customers.        

Things changed with an improvement in the roads and in inter-city bus services.  It became a bit easier to travel the longer distances to a city. Then along came the internet and the burgeoning of internet shopping.  A few local retailers realised they would have to make an effort to compete.  It was reflected in their prices. They figured if the difference in price was marginal, it would be more attractive for shoppers to buy locally.  Shoes were different, in general, the buyer like to try before buying.  The shoe shops that were here, stocked  a range of footwear and reasonable quality shoes too. Custom was good.     
One local niche shoe shop closed down in November 2012, the owner retired.  In the county town, twenty miles away, its sister store continues.  The younger generation of the same family run the shop.  They do not have the customer manner the parents had; they are getting quite a reputation for being 'coarse', another way of saying ill-mannered and uncaring. The older generation were personable and their staff were very pleasant.  Their shop was one of
two that fitted children's shoes. 

Another shoe-shop chain is in difficulties, one which has local branches.  Other branches are on islands, all of these remote shops do good business. They may close soon. This shoe shop also fit children's shoes.  It is the city centre shops  that are dragging down the remote area branches, where competition is greater. Staff and the local people are devastated at this turn of events.                                    

Areas like ours where there are few choices, will feel a major draught with the loss of these shoe businesses.  One shop remains with maturing owners.  It sells a variety of goods and shoes.  They do not offer any service for children. There is a business professing to be a discount store, you have to be astute to shop well in it.  With all this upheaval, I suppose the ill-mannered people in the shoe shop twenty miles away feel that they do not have to make an effort to please customers. 

We have come a long way since my first retail experiences.  Online/internet shopping will still be available.  It will be difficult to return to the completely uncompetitive market there was. It will be a contracted tougher one, and different.   However, fuel prices are sky high, no change there then.


The Owl Wood said...

Reminds me of a portion of my childhood, on the Isle of Lewis. Retail therapy happened once a week, on Saturday, with two shillings and sixpence pocket money. Stornoway Woolworths Pic'n'Mix and a stash of sweets for the week, fish and chips on the quayside and then back into the wilds of nowhere for another seven days. No internet, no phone, certainly no mobile phone, the only English kid in a school of twenty of all ages collected from the villages so no mates either!

One of my favourite games was collecting car number plate numbers ... I'd lie down at the side of the road ten miles outstide Stornoway with pencil and notebook. The phrase "I've got one" took on a whole new meaning. It was usually my father's car...

Sheesh, we were weird (and relatively innocent in so many ways) in them days! The price of Pic'n'Mix was the price - it never even entered my head that it could be otherwise or might be different elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

An interesting post highlighting problems now sadly to be found in every high street.
Much as I don't like shopping I still prefer to do so locally if I can but that is proving ever more difficult. Flighty xx

Anonymous said...

This shows in micro what is happening nationally. It seems to me not just a shame and to be regretted - I also wonder about the future. How long is it going to be possible for people to travel in to city centres and out of town retail parks to get their goods? And not everyone has internet. I have for some time had a feeling that one of these days, we are going to be forced to live more locally and simply. But that needs to be a community decision.

ZACL said...

Greetings Owl Wood,

Thanks very much for commenting. It is a fascinating comment too. It reminds me of the memories I heard elderly relatives - sadly no longer with us - sharing with each other. Real fly-on-the wall stuff. Your Isle of Skye, not a million miles from my home. It is so reminiscent of how things operated here, and still do.

ZACL said...

Hello Mr F.

I understand what you say. Thinking about local shopping, for us, it is as local, as local can provide. After that, 'local' becomes a awful lot further away. xx

ZACL said...

Living more locally and simply... I can see it occurring now, GillyK. Even in cities, there is an economic contraction forcing people into smaller geographical interactions of daily living. It is a process which will evolve and revolve, as things do.

Snowbird said...

What an interesting post Menhir, times are changing at great speed but manners and human behaviour don't seem to.
I always shop locally if at all possible, supporting local ventures and farmers. I'm amazed there are any small independent shops anymore.xxxxx

ZACL said...

It is surprising to find independent businesses, even for me, Plantpot, when I visit other little towns. You wonder if they are flourishing, or, surviving by their wits. I saw a post office sign on one window, recently, and over the lintel of the other window was a sign for locally made wares, appearing to be a separate business in the same premises. There may be some extra trade through the footfall for post office services. Meanwhile, the franchisees of the post office make a little added rent for the space they have let.

Damien said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Apart from the steelworks up the valley, nothing has closed or "downsized" round here yet. However the council are closing the sports centre, which is nice of them. We still have our own library and fire station due to us being so far from Sheffield, the fire station staying open due to our proximity to the notorious Woodhead Pass. We don't have a shoe shop though. I normally buy mine from Ziengs in Deventer and try to buy styles by Loints of Amsterdam if I can afford it.

ZACL said...

Hi Mick,

Our fire station has retained personnel, no full time staff. If there's an incident, the call out procedure is put in place. It's operated like the life boat service. You can see that when it comes to fire, or other incidents that service is trained for, delays in reaching an incident, are always a factor.

Ambulances are another story.

I believe we will have to buy footwear, when needed, when we travel. Perth used to be a useful shoe stop and likewise, Keswick.