I saw a video on LinkedIn recently in which two women were crouching behind their shop counter doing a little victory dance after selling one of their products. It highlighted the enormous difference just a few sales can make to a small business and I could certainly relate to it, both as a customer and as a business owner.
During COVID-19 a lot of us changed our shopping habits and a good many small, local businesses reaped the benefit. Quite often it was easier to get hold of basics like eggs, meat, veg and flour from farm gates and corner shops than it was from further afield. Many of us ate differently and organised our lives differently because we had no choice and it often turned out that these smaller providers and alternative products offered us better quality and a better service.
Now that more shops and businesses are re-opening, I hope that we don’t forget the incredible hard work and adaptability that those small firms demonstrated when we needed them. It would be all too easy to revert to our old habits and put convenience and price above quality and support. We need small businesses because without them we are left with a tiny number of mega companies who dictate what we buy and how much we pay. We need small businesses because they are the bedrock of our economy. We need small businesses because they give us choices.
Whilst an algorithm might know more about us than we know about ourselves, the local butcher is the person I would trust to advise me on what would be best for a dinner party. The supermarket loyalty scheme may send me messages about offers ‘just for you’, but it is nothing to walking into my local pub and finding the landlord ready to pour me my usual drink. We are in danger of confusing personalisation via code with good old fashioned service via face to face contact.
Members of the Pluralists Club certainly know the benefits of making networks and working with the people around you to build things. They know that community is important; it’s the foundation on which society stands and without it we are adrift. So although things are easing now, let’s keep supporting small businesses. Let’s start small businesses. Let’s have a post-COVID small business revolution.