A year ago Bonsall’s Ironmongers posted a statement that they might have to close down due to a lack of custom. In a town bustling with home improvements, why is this most useful and convenient of resources being neglected?
Hebden Bridge is an award winning town: in 2016 it fought-off competition from Chipping Norton & Thame to win the British High Street Awards.
After the Boxing Day floods of 2015, when so many businesses and homes were destroyed, the people of Hebden Bridge demonstrated a remarkable capacity for recovery. Paramount in everyone’s mind was the survival of local businesses and shops.
This is our home, and we are all responsible for it’s survival and growth – GO LOCAL!
This ability to respond in times of crisis is a valuable characteristic of the place that I have come to call home. However, as the memory of trauma ebbs away we can become complacent in our efforts to ensure that the soul of the community remains true.
As a child I grew up surrounded by the Kent countryside, but where there were once hop farms and orchards there now stand sprawling retail parks. I feel a pang of sadness every time I return to Kent, especially when I see that more and more of my childhood home has been ruined by large chain stores.
This kind of change happens with increasing speed and devastates communities. This is the place where you live, where you raise your children, and where they will start to learn about the world. If local businesses are neglected then they will not survive; if they do not survive, then towns are left defenceless against the deadly flow of ‘convenience’ living.
Same day collection at your local ironmongers.
How can we keep our town alive? It is simple: shop locally and use your local amenities. When I visited Bonsall’s and spoke to owners John and Julie, they told me about several occasions when customers had been charged more at large superstores or online. Consumers have been misled into thinking that larger outlets are cheaper, more efficient and better quality than the local outlets. Next day delivery is often cited as an advantage of shopping online, but if you take a walk into your town centre you can get it right now.
“I remember coming in here as a lad,” John told me, as we discussed the problems that he and Julie are currently contending with. “People think its always cheaper elsewhere, but quite often they’re wrong.”
When you use your local shop, you will deal with people: real people, who are friendly, helpful and know the town just like you do. John and Julie have a wealth of knowledge to share with you and you will not have to subscribe or make any in app purchases for them to do so.
This shop, and many others, are a part of the history of Hebden Bridge. These resources are the town’s heritage – it is up to all of us that they remain a part of our future.
A year on
I have popped into Bonsalls many times over the last year for all my household repairs, but today I went with my notebook, pen and a single question:
Have things improved?
The good news is, basically, yes.
“Since September last year things have started picking up. People realised that our prices are competitive, and things have really picked up. We are competing with larger stores and online sellers.”
Like fois gras geese we have been force-fed the notion that everything online is cheaper, more convenient and will lead to a better quality of life. What Bonsall’s have proven is that this is simply not always true.
There are many other positives as well, ease of making returns or exchanges, local knowledge, building inter-business relationships and supporting a thriving local economy. Then we have the businesses that benefit from Bonsall’s being open:
The Picture House
The Menagerie and many other local shops and services. (I had to stop asking questions there because there was a queue forming.)
When you buy from Bonsall’s you are not just supporting one shop, but all those that trade with it. We need residents shopping locally, and local businesses trading with one another.
A New Year Challenge.
As I have cited on several occasions, the solution to this problem is simple, but it does require a commitment.
When you need a new plug, lightbulb, tin of paint or need a key cutting, or any other item that a small business needs throughout the year, then buy it locally. If you need fresh meat, then we have two superb butchers to choose from. Flowers for the office, we have florists. Decor and furnishings, there are plenty to choose from. Haberdashers, haircuts, swim suits, lingerie, market days and vintage wear, iPhones and car care – get it locally.
I accept that it is not always possible, and the digital realm can be a fantastic resource. However, we must learn to modify our mindsets and think locally as well as globally.
Blog post by David Nixon Writing.