No doubt you’ve heard it all before.
‘Save the independents’. ‘What do you want the High Street to look like?’ ‘Shop local’. Well, call me old fashioned and quaint but I want to be able to walk to my local shops, recognise who is serving me and to have some level of relationship with them. It is a crucial part of being in a community.
Is that the same for kids? I’d say yes. Interaction with different people on different levels is an important learning experience. Certainly economically everyone wins if you shop at independents.
Contrary to misconception they are competitively priced and, as Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation claims in Tescopoly, more of the pound that is spent in a local shop stays in the local community than money spent in one of the big supermarkets.
So what of the local toy shop? Is it a thing of the past and should we care? According to 120 local people in Chorlton, South Manchester, it’s not. They were so keen to have a local, convenient, responsive, friendly alternative that they invested over £250 each to transform a local shop about to close into Britain’s first toy shop community co-operative: Busy Bee Toy Shop.
The toy industry needs to give small independents a helping hand. And by that I mean things like: having as standard from all companies 30 day payments; keeping the value of orders lower on carriage paid so we can order less more often; discounting prompt payment. They are simple, economic measures that help small independents whose cash flow is the lifeblood of their business.
Don’t get me wrong, some suppliers are a
pleasure to work with; organisations you feel are on your side in creating a magical experience for the young consumer, and that don’t favour the big players.
Will children of today talk fondly with the children of tomorrow about the magic of supermarket shopping? I fear not. Not only is the local toy shop a safe environment for children to explore, create, and use their imagination, they develop all-important skills in budgeting (who hasn’t saved up their pocket money for that all essential toy that will change your whole life?).
Do our children deserve more than just bigger and ‘supposedly’ better things? Are we prepared to save our communities?
About the author
Rachel Muter is one of the founding members of the Busy Bee Toy Shop co-operative. You can contact the store on 0161 881 5838, visit the website at www.busybeetoyshop.co.uk or its Twitter page @BusyBeeToyshop.