16 November 2014

Free Coffee at Waitrose!

Ok, ok, I am a coffee shop owner and have a vested intrest in seeing Waitrose stop giving out free coffee. Putting that to one side, I am very interested in fairness, ethics and sustainability when we shop, Waitrose was one supermarket that I actually felt good shopping in. I felt they had strong views about corporate responsibility and sustainability.

I haven't stepped foot in a Waitrose for about 1 year now. Why? I do not like lies or misleading information. Waitrose have claimed in the media, that they give coffee out to grocery shoppers to thank them for shopping at their store. Actually, they don't, they give free coffee with no purchase necessary, as stated in the terms and conditions on their website.

Free hot drink

1. Offer available to all myWaitrose members on presentation of a myWaitrose card in store.

2. One per myWaitrose member per day.

3. Only Americano, Cappuccino, Latte, Tea, Mocha and Espresso (Decaffeinated versions, Mocha and Espresso available in selected stores only) qualify as a free hot drink.

4. Selected stores only, excludes Costa Concessions, online, petrol filling stations, Shell and Welcome Break.

5. Subject to availability.

6. No purchase necessary.

7. Cannot be used in conjunction with other Café or hot drink offers.

8. At any till the myWaitrose card must be scanned to activate the offer. Quickpay customers must scan their myWaitrose card at any point during their shop.

There is also no time limit given for the promotion and no promotion of how good the coffee tastes, or how sustainable and fair that the product is. I wonder where those beans are sourced from. I am sure if it was Fairtrade coffee, they would tell us, as part of their corporate responsibility branding.

Is it fair that a large organisation that claims to be ethical, responsible and sustainable is able to continue to hand out these free drinks and directly threaten or challenge, little independent coffee shops near by and directly effect the local economy, negatively? Well, of course not and yet people are very possessive over that free coffee and if I make whinging, whining negative comments about the lack of ethics, or sustainability behind the scheme, they whinge and whine back at me. Nothing must stand between them and that much needed freebie, that they feel they deserve, especially as the green roots of economic recovery are looking rather brown and withered. Getting something, for absolutely nothing is a novelty these days and who minds taking it from a large corporation? If it is truly for nothing, is another story, seeing as you are inadvertently taking part in market research, each time you receive a coffee, by getting your card scanned and details read and your information and your routine logged.

The dynamics of the Waitrose free drink offering are very interesting indeed, for instance, I have heard several reports and jokes about how awful some people find it tastes. But why would they keep going back to get another one and another one? How long do you have to spend waiting in a queue, diverting away from your usual stroll and taking up your time to walk into Waitrose? How many times have you gone in for the free coffee and come out with other things that you realised suddenly that you 'needed'. How convenient did that feel and you had a free coffee too. Of course you know how it works, the cost of the coffee is a promotional tool, that is paid for from the shopping that you do in there. It's almost like a slight of hand magic trick.

The free hot drink promotion by Waitrose is not doing anyone any good, least of all their own business, which has issued a profit warning. If I were a member of Waitrose staff, I'd feel upset that I had joined a company that calls itself ethical and they had spent my potential share dividends on giving non-customers a reward, where no purchase is necessary. Basic business sense, ethics and a regard for sustainability suggests that a minimum spend would have to be a qualifying factor, for a free hot drink promotion, over such a long period of time.

I am amazed that Waitrose have recently won an award for sustainability, when this promotional activity is unsustainable: http://www.waitrose.com/home/inspiration/about_waitrose/the_waitrose_way.html

The way I see it is simple, Waitrose are destroying my business's chance of growing, therefore, I cannot support their business practices by shopping there. They have lost hundreds of pounds from me, as I have lost faith in the way they do business and of course their free coffee is an unfair challenge to my business, the free coffee is also damaging their business, not just the cost of giving out the free drinks but the cost of customers boycotting Waitrose because of this economic unfairness. I'd love to know if Waitrose staff had the chance to vote for or against this unprofitable scheme.

7 November 2014

I'd rather have the shop empty!

There is a definite problem with some landlords, in Shepton Mallet keeping rents artificially high. I am lucky enough to have a landlord who understands the difficult economic times and who has been flexible enough to negotiate the rent with us. They told me that they would rather have someone in the shop than having it empty.

Today, I took the liberty of phoning a different local landlord, who was not being at all flexible on price, to have a discussion about this problem, that is not helping to regenerate the High Street whatsoever!

The landlord said, 'I would rather the property stayed empty, than rent it out for less than I want to'!

I replied that surely it would be better to let a business be in there for nothing, or at least a reduced rent, with a signed agreement stating they would get out as soon as someone was available to rent the unit at the required price. The landlord said that there was no way that they would entertain that idea.

Although the person I was talking to seemed to me to be on the defensive at first, I think they understood that I was looking for common ground. We had an interesting conversation where we agreed that the public, the shopkeepers and they, as landlords, would all want to see the regeneration of the High Street, however, whereas shopkeepers like to blame the lack of business sustainability on the landlord for charging too high a rent, this particular landlord likes to point a finger at the public and blame them for choosing not to shop at the local shops and choosing not to support them. The landlord said that the public need to support the shops and use them, if they want them. Then the public have made noises about Shepton Mallet High Street saying that the shopping choice isn't strong enough, that there needs to be a Marks and Spencers, or Waitrose, to draw people in to the centre. The shrinking Friday Market is another issue that needs addressing. Some people have said that the market is held at the wrong time of day, on the wrong day of the week, saying that if you work, you can't use it. Others have complained that the quality of the fruit and veg is hit and miss. Some people say that the market needs to start at the top of town, so that it can be seen from Tesco and draw people into town and some say it needs to go back around the market cross, off the road and that the road should be kept open, instead of being closed on market day.

Would we be worrying about these things if the economy was strong? I don't think so, things would just be ticking along nicely.

Perhaps the reason that it's so difficult to run any business at the moment is because the economy is so poor and generally, people do not have the money to spend, so the landlord waiting for the public to support the local shops with the limited amounts of money they have is futile, they are looking to the people who are struggling the most, the people whose wages have decreased, or stayed the same despite inflation and VAT increases, to spend at the same level they always did but they cannot, they are expecting people who have been made redundant, or had their hours at work cut, to maintain the same level of spending as they did in more affluent times. In asking the public to support their customers, do the landlords of the buildings in the High Street actually come into the high street and support the high street, do their shopping there, do business meetings there, do they think about where they shop and where they spend their money? Hang on a minute, this is ringing a familiar bell in my head, once again an image is conjured up in my mind of someone at the top getting people to spend money with them and then those people deciding not to spend their money in the local community and it all gets drained away to goodness knows where, just like a messed up water cycle, where if it's not sustainable, it will dry up and there is nothing left for anyone.

I don't know what the answer is but I do know that shopkeepers, landlords and shoppers are all stakeholders in the High Street and we all have to work together, not to keep things the same but to move into the future, to embrace change.

If we all point the finger of blame at each other, we will get nothing done, we have to innovate and create a new way and we have to learn how to understand what motivates a landlord. Maybe they are correct not to budge on the price, or is there a way of calculating a shop's worth with a formula, could it be that a fair rent for the unit could be, affluence grading of the area (where the higher the disposable income, the higher the grading, from 1 being an economically challenged area to 10 being an area with a large disposable income) x shop size (where the biggest is 10 on a scale and the smallest is 1) x average footfall per day, as measured over 1 year = ?  Then divided by 3 = your monthly rent in pounds.

It tickled me when in The Journal rents in Glastonbury, with much higher footfall and more disposable income and in Wells where again, there's more cash and feet about, were compared to the rents for similar properties in Shepton Mallet and judged to be in line but unfortunately, the footfall and affluence of the area wasn't taken into consideration.

The properties in Shepton are in general, priced too highly for the footfall and the area. A campaign, not against the landlords but to work with the landlords to consider what could motivate them to make changes, would be an amazing step forward, I believe.

Maybe the law needs changing, maybe there could be a law saying that no unit can be empty for more than two months and in that time, the local council have responsibility for using the shop front as a way to advertise other local shops, businesses and services, like a big colourful billboard.

I'd love to hear your ideas about this.

What can be done to regenerate our high street, to move forward with the times?

2 November 2014

Another Shop Shuts in Shepton.

Helping Mike Alford and his family and in turn, helping to protect our High Street by successfully campaigning against Tesco installing a Timpson pod at The Townsend Retail Park, gave me a warm glow and a real sense of achievement. Today, though, I feel like a firefighter who has been fighting one blaze, only to turn around and see that another fire was burning and the sustainability of another business on our High Street has been under threat. That business, Penny's Sweets, right next door to our shop, has now closed. Jenny Penny is pleased to take on new opportunities, which is a good thing but I feel gutted that they have closed.

I came to Shepton Mallet with the aim of helping to revitalise the High Street, to help visitors and locals to realise what brilliantly cool shops we have. Right from the word go, Jenny and her family were very welcoming, as our shop neighbours. I particularly enjoyed the support that Jenny and I gave to each other. I sent customers to her, she sent customers to me.

The closure of Penny's Sweets is a real blow to the High Street. To me it looks like a row of teeth with a space, where one has been knocked out, there's a gap, a big, vacant screaming gap. I'm trying to be thankful that the only casualty seems to be the shop, rather than Jenny or her family. Taking the decision to shut your shop is a very difficult process and it can destroy some people, so I take great solace in the fact that Jenny has retained her sanity and health. However, on a personal level for me, I feel so upset by this, I can hardly gather together my motivation to go into work today.

I've never thought about what it feels like for the shop keeper of the shop next door to the one that closed, before. In this instance, this shopkeeper feels very, very upset and sad, it is almost like there has been a death. I feel like crying and do, sometimes, when I walk past that closed door. I have in my mind the image of a happy, lively place, which is now a tombstone. I might get that a bit more into perspective soon but that's how it feels to me right now.

My morale is rock bottom and I want to blame someone. Basically, it's your fault because you didn't pop in enough and you didn't buy enough, or is it the fault of the economy, with the prison closure, the Co-operative bank closing and so on, or maybe is it the fault of the council, the accountancy firm at The Mill moved to Wells, as they couldn't get planning permission to expand their offices here in Shepton, or maybe it is my fault, I was completely focused on saving the High Street from the Timpson pod, depleting footfall even further, whilst in the meantime, my neighbour's business closes? Now I pose myself the difficult question, did my business help or hinder the business next door?

I like to think that I bought more visitors into town and I promoted Penny's Sweets to my customers and to all my visitors, I also talked about Penny's Sweets on social media. I like to think I helped the business next door to me but did I truly? I set up a Shepton Mallet Shops website to support all independent shops and businesses in the area and a Facebook Group, Discover Shepton Mallet, to let everyone know about these kinds of hidden gems. It wasn't enough, more needed to be done. Doing more in these times is like riding a ship in a storm, with one hand on the steering wheel, (If that's what it's called on a ship), whilst bailing out water, with a bucket, with the other hand.

I know I can't take on responsibility for the whole High Street but I do have to accept at least some responsibility for there now being an empty shop, next to mine. If I don't then I deny myself the power to make changes and make a difference in the future.

So, for the while, let me feel sad and analyse what I can do better in the future, with your support.

1 November 2014

English Heritage and Shepton Prison

So, it seems the two bids from two Shepton Mallet locals have been rejected by the Ministry of Justice and the bidder that they are negotiating with is....................
Well, the mystery bidder hasn't been disclosed to the public, I believe this is to protect commercially sensitive information.

I don't feel this is very fair to our community and I feel the process should be a little more transparent. The only way for us to keep a tab on what's going on at the moment, is to look at any planning applications that might come through.

In the meantime though, secrecy annoys me, so I have been trawling the internet for more information. After a good few hours this is what I believe is happening, English Heritage, are working with Mendip Council and Purcell Architects, in their negotiations. Afterall, the prison is a Grade 2 listed building which means it is of special interest and can't be adapted any old how.
Looking at the English Heritage's portfolio of past projects, I can see they often create innovative solutions and challenging concepts. Their projects seem to be carried out in sympathy to the original building and sometimes additions are in complete contrast to the original, which can look stunning, or could perhaps can look overwhelmingly challenging. Their developments seen to embrace the design ethos of the present, as well as respecting the past.

I feel confident in their ability to create something great. I am not confident in their ability, at the moment, to create something that will inherently improve our community, unless the process is more transparent and there is a public consultation.

English Heritage are experienced at working with the local authorities and their teams to create visionary solutions but I for one, would like to know what their vision is in this instance.

Are they going to turn the whole lot into homes, or will it be homes and mixed leisure use, or will they do the right thing and ensure that the history of the prison is harnessed to create a destination, worthy of a visit from holiday makers, visitors and locals? We really do have a wonderful heritage here in Shepton Mallet, embodied by that prison, HM Cornhill.

The prison closing has adversely affected the local economy with job losses and a knock on effect for the High Street too. Let's hope that the problem, can now be turned into part of the solution.
What do you think? Please let me know.
Update: November 6th 2014. Since writing this blog, The Shepton Mallet Journal has had confirmation from English Heritage, that they did not bid themselves but have only assisted in the bidding process. The Ministry of Justice is still not revealing who they are in negotiations with. Don't we have a right to know?

25 October 2014

We said 'No'to Timpson at Tesco and they listened!

I received a most delicious phone call yesterday from Fuchsia at Shepton Mallet Journal, telling me the news that Tesco had withdrawn their application for a Timpson pod!

As, at the time of writing, I am not aware of any comments made by Timpson or Tesco, I assume the withdrawal of the application is as a direct result of our online petition, set up in July of this year. The power of well over 500 signatures and over 150 strong comments, combined with great local press coverage by Shepton Mallet Journal, a supportive mention by Kevin McCloud in his Grand Designs Magazine and supportive retweets from local business man and creator of Kilver Court, Roger Saul and his other connections, which attracted more and more support.

Our online petition was set up using change.org, the format of their website was extremely easy to use with really useful articles and tips to help us garner extra support.

This is the first time I have ever set up a petition to campaign against an economic injustice, or any kind of injustice and to think it has been successful, is incredible. A massive thank you to you, if you did anything in any way to support this action!

Now to focus on the changing face of our High Street! Together we can make change.

Shepton Mallet shops triumph as application for Timpson at Tesco is withdrawn | Shepton Mallet Journal

3 October 2014

Celebrity TV Presenter Supports Our 'Say No to Timpson at Tesco' campaign!

It's about time you had a good old update about our campaign to 'Say No to Timpson at Tesco', isn't it.

In July, James Timpson, the Managing Director of Timpson, gave me a call to have a chat about the situation in Shepton Mallet, where a planned Timpson pod, installed in the Tesco retail park will threaten our high street, even more. I was really looking forward to that chat, knowing full well, that he would of course listen to sense, community duty and ethics, I was looking forward to putting the phone down and rushing to tell Mike Alford, the cobbler's son, the good news. I knew that we would make a difference and I knew that James Timpson would acknowledge that the Townsend location, as an edge of town retail park, would prove to be a valid threat indeed to the high street and I knew that he would reassure me that he would ask Tesco to withdraw the planning application.

Oh, but this didn't happen, at all. Mr Timpson did try to reassure me but unfortunately he tried to reassure me that when he has a shop in a town centre and then he opens one on a retail park, the takings in the other shop, on the high street are not affected and if they are then only marginally so. I pointed out that this was an edge of town retail park, rather than an out of town retail park but he didn't really seem to take that point on board. He also told me that what they were doing was not morally wrong in his eyes. He also said that if Timpson thought for one minute that it would affect the shop already in the High Street, they would not do it.

I asked Mr Timpson, if he would come to Shepton Mallet, to have a look at the situation and to also meet with the shop keepers, to see what they thought and felt about the planning application to put a Timpson pod in the Townsend Retail Park, that invitation was refused, although he said he would maybe pop in for a coffee one day.

To say I was disappointed with that outcome, wouldn't do my feelings justice. I felt very, very wronged indeed. It was good that Mr Timpson took the time to call me and to talk and to be interested but I am afraid he did it just so that I could spread his word of good intentions and he wasn't actually interested in a conversation, or a negotiation about where his Timpson pod could go. I know where I'd like it to go but that's another matter.

I felt that was a blow to the campaign and I hadn't achieved what I set out to do.

The next blow was when one of my new Facebook friends was looking for a job in Shepton Mallet and came across an advert for a trainee shoe repair person, for their branch in Shepton Mallet! I couldn't believe the cheek of it! Can you imagine interviewing people for a position for a job in a pod, that hasn't even got planning permission? Can you imagine doing that? Can you imagine being interviewed for that job, you're skint, been unemployed for ages, spend time, money and hope on sending off your CV and then being interviewed and there isn't even actually a JOB! That is just so wrong.

Then one day, Mike Alford, came rushing into the shop to tell me that the petition had been mentioned in Channel 4's Grand Designs Magazine and that the TV Presenter Kevin McCloud had signed it. It's in the October issue! I am so grateful to Kevin McCloud for supporting our campaign in this way. This has given the campaign a real boost, with front page coverage from Shepton Mallet Journal and they've also printed the link to the petition in the paper, which is fantastic. I can see the petition is now reaching more locals, with more signatures trickling in. At the time of writing we are on 486, getting to 500 would be great!

Please sign our Petition.

Then, after signing our petition please take the following steps to support our campaign:

1/ Please share this petition with your friends, via social media and email.
2/ Please email Tessa Munt, to express your opposition:    Tessa.munt.mp@parliament.uk
3/ Spend at least £10 a week in your local independent shops instead of Tesco! Don't forget Shepton Mallet's Friday Market, with Fruit, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, Baked Goods, Plants and Flowers, as well as our unique High Street!

29 August 2014

Shopping Psychology and Town Transformation

As an independent shop keeper, it is definitely in my interest to keep up a powerful campaign to encourage people to choose to shop local and independent, it's also in my interests as a human, who needs sustainability, a strong circular economy and ethics, so the people in my community, my family and my friends, can enjoy jobs, stability and a cohesive and supportive community in which to live. Having a viable High Street, that looks good and works well is a part of the formula for a strong community. Independent shops act as little social hubs, where people meet to connect, chat and find out new information, as much as to actually shop.

After having opened two coffee shops, I have observed an interesting phenomenon, that I would not have been able to predict at all before opening those shops. I am certainly learning more about the psychology of shopping, every single day, it's a mind game and I am definitely hooked.

The question is why do newcomers to an area, whether they've been there for decades, or have just moved in, seem to find it easier to first of all, notice a shop, second of all to walk into a shop and third of all become regular customers, passionate supporters and after a time, true friends?

In my Shepton Mallet shop, I see locals choosing to walk all the way up the High Street, shop at Tesco and then walk down again, with heavy bags of shopping, without stopping at one independent shop in our town, without even glancing in any of the pretty and well presented windows.

People do have a choice and that is their choice, even though there is a Friday market which sells better and much cheaper fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and bread, is more fun to shop at and is closer to where they live, than Tesco! It doesn't seem logical to me. So what is the psychology underlying the decision to shop in a large chain where most of your money is siphoned off, away from the local economy, as opposed to shopping local and independent, where studies have shown this creates a stronger local economy for the community, with around 70p in every pound being re-spent in the local community. Bearing this in mind it stuns me when I see independent shop keepers choosing to spend their money in Tesco, especially in this town, where Tesco has too overwhelming a presence.

I suppose part of the problem could be that many locals have seen businesses start up and then fail, they lose their confidence in the viability of the town centre and then give up.

Thinking about it, there's a similar problem, with our shop on Platform 1, Enfield Chase Train station. There had been five or six businesses before us that opened up for at the longest 6 months and then closed down. Local people's perception of the viability of investing their time and money into that business and relying on it for their coffee, has been eroded over the years by consistent closures. Some people, when I get round to having a chat with them, have stood on the platform, every day at the same time for years and years and tell me they didn't even know there was a coffee shop there let alone one that has one several awards, produced a local Fairtrade Directory, appeared on Television several times and in the local papers too! They don't notice the signs, I mean real signs, printed ones, in the ticket hall, along the platform, on the platform and the other signs such as the aroma of coffee, freshly baked cakes and other people holding cups of freshly made coffee! Although one of our long time customers is a partially sighted musician. How on earth did he manage to find us, when we are tucked around the corner of the wall and others that can see, can't see that we are there but he can? Not one to be backwards in coming forward, I asked how he could find us, when plenty of seeing people couldn't! He said he followed the gorgeous smell of coffee and found us. This makes me feel that there is a kind of 'local blindness' where people just do not see the new shops and aren't interested anyway.

So, is the explanation that some people feel open-minded and ready and are actively seeking new experiences and others are focused on their routine, that works well for them and at that time, they do not want to have a new experience, it would be simply too stressful, too challenging, too far outside the comfort zone, however, when they go on holiday, have more time, feel more relaxed, they also feel more like cherishing and enjoying new experiences. Does that maybe explain why newcomers to an area discover our shop easily and feel good about walking in? They are a self-selected band of person who has already proven that they are open to new experiences at this time in their lives, as they have moved from one place to another, tourists and day-trippers have also ear-marked themselves as more open to new experiences and more open to choosing to shop independent.

Just yesterday, in our Shepton Mallet shop, it was near closing time and three very open and friendly people came in, two wanted coffee, the other wanted a cold drink with no added sugars, she loved our Raspberry Ginger Zinger. Whilst waiting, they spotted Agave Nectar and Cashew Nut Butter and bought two lots of each, they bought some cake too. Just as I opened the fridge, to tidy away the milk, I spotted the gorgeous Booja Booja, handmade champagne chocolate  truffles, made with agave nectar, that are gluten-free and dairy-free. I felt I had a duty to tell them about these truffles but on the other hand, didn't want them to feel obliged to buy them. So, I told them about these truffles, which I absolutely adore and start to positively drool if I think about them and it's even worse if I talk about them. I actually had to apologise for drooling. They bought two little boxes of my truffles and saved them to enjoy later. (I call them my truffles because I buy them from myself too, so they are all mine, unless you buy them). I really enjoyed those customers, they were open-minded, receptive and they wanted a great experience. Where did they come from? Were they local? No, they were day trippers, from Bristol and they will be back! Earlier on that day I had another lovely group of people in, relishing coffee and cakes and soaking up a special experience. Where were they from? New Zealand! They thought they wouldn't need a loyalty card because they are not from here, I assured them they would need it, as our coffee is so good and they will want more, even if they think they are driving away, I said they will not be able to go without having more and will have to turn back. Yup, that loyalty card was all used up in one session!

We always ask where people are from, especially in our Shepton Mallet shop, one day I had seven customers in the shop at the same time, I asked where these individual customers were from, they were all from London, like me! We've been in Shepton Mallet for a year now and our customers are a lovely eclectic mix of mainly creatives, thinkers, tourists, people that have moved into the area, day-trippers and other local independent business owners. When we first opened, I imagined that our core customer base would be people born and bred in Shepton Mallet, relieved that another lovely shop would be coming to the High Street and willingly wanting to support it, our customer base is completely different to that. Why? It doesn't make sense when the born and bred locals are the loudest in complaining about the High Street and the newcomers are the most enthusiastic advocates. This isn't the case in just Shepton Mallet, a facebook discussion reveals that some born and bred locals in the Frome area choose to take a bus to Trowbridge to shop, rather than go to the local independents, or even the chains. It is reported that they perceive the High Street as being unable to fulfil their needs. Yet other people travel from other places to enjoy their High Street.

So, what is going on? Is it the 'grass is always greener' syndrome, where people appreciate far more what they haven't got, than what is right on their doorstep? What is in their town is maybe perceived as run down and not commercialised enough, whereas a newcomer sees the town through interested eyes full of anticipation, looking for the possibilities, noticing the beauty, the potential and the positives.
It's a different mindset.

Is it like blackberry picking where the fruit furthest away looks more plump, shiny and juicy than the ones easily in reach? Is that the underlying psychology here? Is it that we always want what we haven't got? Is this just another symptom of a society that is weary and jaded and projects that feeling onto the surrounding environment? Are people fed up and tired and miss the positives happening right under their noses because it's always been bad?

In Enfield, it took me about 3 years of going outside the Enfield shop, chatting to one man in particular that I felt would enjoy our shop, until one day, finally he stepped inside and ordered a coffee! Now, he is one of our faithful and supportive regulars and he loves us and our shop. I have the feeling that if we were a recognisable big brand name like Costa there would be no, or little hesitation in walking in. Is that maybe because of the high levels of consumer trust that Costa have established over the years? Is it the high comfort level of knowing exactly what the environment will be like when you walk in, knowing what the coffee will taste like, knowing that this is a low risk situation, with a high chance that you'll get what you imagined you would get? Having put it like that, I can see how easy it is to walk into a recognisable chain and how difficult and challenging it can be to walk into an independent, after all, your time and money is at risk. Economic times are hard, so you want to lessen the risk and deal with what you know.

It's easy to trust a Tesco or Costa, as they are everywhere, you know more or less what to expect and you don't need to step outside your comfort zone.

I notice that when people walk into either of my shops, they look around and completely get it, within 5 seconds, or I have to say, hello, we are a coffee and health food shop. Holiday makers, creatives, day trippers and other independent business owners are the people that are attracted to walking inside our little havens of coffee and community.

If we had one of these shops on every High Street, people would instantly recognise it and feel very comfortable walking in, as they have walked in to many of these before. It would feel safe and easy for them.
Sometime independent shops close due to illness, family issues, or a holiday. It's a catch 22 situation, where it is perhaps not financially viable to take on staff, so independents are perceived as being unreliable. Now, if you love independent shops and are a strong supporter of the revitalization of the High Street, you take it on the chin and go back when they are open. If you are looking for convenience only, you'll feel fed up and go to a chain that is always open. Which means another customer is lost.

Today, I made the decision, that in the grand scheme of things, it was more important to finish this blog post, than anything else, that's my creative side being unleashed and allowed to breathe. The shop however, is not open because I am at home writing this and just could not stop my flow.

So, for my final questions:
Is it a problem if local people choose to shop somewhere else? Is it necessary for the success of the High Street, to encourage locals to shop there, or would that be like trying to get people that enjoy coffee to enjoy herbal tea, or vice versa?

Is it inherent in human nature to have a stronger ability to see what's good and be more attracted to new ideas when we are outside our usual environment. Could be that we like to hunt, we like to seek, we like to experience and for everyone of us, this only feels like the real thing, if we are not in our usual territory?
Could it be that, going on a shopping trip that is away from your own town is a great way to enjoy a day trip somewhere, for a reason, without feeling guilty for doing it?

As a business woman, I know that it is easier to make more sales to your regular customers than to gain a new customer, it is more cost effective to nurture and reward your current customers, than to attract a new one. So, on that basis, I feel that it is better to build positively on what is seen to be working.

The High Street is undergoing a massive transition at the moment, we need to embrace that transition and work with it, not against it. Maybe a part of that transition is that in the past the High Street was full of essential services and goods and every High Street had the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. With the internet and retail park revolution, High Streets are now full of services, charity shops, coffee shops, estate agents and so on. These things are physical and can't be done on the internet, or are a unique offering, such as crafts, clothes boutiques records or second-hand shops. So shopping on the High Street is transforming into more of a leisure time, treat yourself type of activity. Rather than day to day essential shopping, although there are some essentials still in place on the luckier High Streets, such as here in Shepton, where we have The Shepton Cobbler and our own Denela's Bakery, which has queues of people out of their door for freshly made sandwiches. We also have the Co-op in Town, the newly established ABC International Foods supermarket and Little Daisy Deli where you can get your food supplies from.
I am really, really proud of Shepton Mallet High Street and the small but effective weekly market and after a year of being here, there are strong signs of regeneration and attraction of investment in the town centre! A new Italian restaurant is opening up soon!

Let's go with the flow, let's dance on the waves of transformation, rather than trying to convince locals to shop on their High Street, let them choose to go elsewhere. The key to future success, is to build on the positivity that is already manifesting, in both Shepton Mallet and Frome, where those High Streets can be held up as examples of having an offering that is so attractive they draw in trade from tourists and regular trade from returning day trippers! That truly is something to celebrate and something to shout about and I feel proud that My Coffee Stop has been able to play even a small part in the ongoing transformation, just by having a shop on the High Street! And now I'd better get myself to work and open up that little shop!
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