Sometimes in life you get presented with a “no-brainer” – like Gift-Aiding a charity donation, cashing in a money-off coupon, or having the hash brown because, bizarrely, “it works out cheaper that way”. I have a “no-brainer” plan to put £500,000 into the Ashbourne economy every year and I want to share it. Sadly I’m not the latest Euromillions winner and my Premium Bonds seem fossilised like everyone else’s. My solution is to Try Ashbourne First.
A couple of years ago I met the local traders group at one of their regular meetings and heard the slogan for the first time and it struck a chord with me. We are normal people with busy lives and realistically none of us can afford a life run purely on principle. We all do use supermarkets and national chains and we don’t need someone banging on in our ear making us feel bad about it. Try Ashbourne First is a pragmatic win-win solution for everyone.
Shopping locally in independent retailers is so important to Ashbourne’s wellbeing. The profits made by national chains are shipped off to the head office and minimised by any number of tax-efficient schemes. They are then distributed to shareholders in dividends and to supermarket executives in bonuses with the rest helping to fund a new store many miles away. Unless you happen to be a shareholder, directly or indirectly, you will see nothing for your money other than the products in your basket.
By comparison, the money spent locally keeps circulating in the local community – with other retailers and suppliers – and nationally by shopkeepers paying fair taxes like you and me. While the national chains source from international suppliers and screw down margins on everyone, independent retailers work with local suppliers and stock a higher proportion of local produce. In addition your money supports ancillary businesses – window cleaners, accountants, estate agents and fuel stations. Of course national chain stores employ local people but they don’t employ as many people proportionally as independent retailers. When all this is factored in, a pound spent with an independent local retailer puts at least 50% more into the local economy. You are helping your neighbours.
To make this work we all need to make a slight change in behaviour – but the plan recognises we don’t have time to traipse round shops all day and we certainly don’t have the money to spend on more expensive products. The amazing thing is that this doesn’t need to cost you a penny. Since that meeting with local traders I’ve made an effort to talk to our retailers and look at what they sell in detail. From Hulme’s to Lumbard’s to stalls on the market; I’ve looked at the range they sell and the prices they charge. Just look at the Try Ashbourne First page on this blog to see where I have been. Some things are without doubt more expensive but they also sell many other things cheaper than you can find online. Crucially they have found ways to compete by selling unique products, smaller quantities, and with services included that the national retailers just can’t match. They must be pulling their hair out that despite often having a better, cheaper product we don’t seem able to change our shopping behaviours. We just haven’t kept pace with our retailers.
My plan would require all of us to spend just £5 more per week with our independent retailers (that’s only the delivery charge on an online shop) and it would inject the extra £500,000 a year into our local economy. All you need to do is time it right and fill your car up with fuel in Ashbourne, visit the market once a month, buy that birthday present from a gift shop rather than Amazon or buy that one-off special dress in our local boutiques. Don’t forget that Ashbourne has a healthy and growing online presence too. Some of our businesses are online-only and others have an online shop with a wider range of stock. The supplementary slogan is Try Ashbourne Online Second. There is an important place for national retailers too but we need them to participate more in our community. Occasional fundraising is great but the benefit that comes from this is dwarfed by the money which drains out of Ashbourne through their normal trading.
Try Ashbourne First is great because it doesn’t demand that much from us. In return our economy thrives and our chain stores start to pay attention to our community. And it makes you feel good too.