// The TAG! Blog

Why I Shop Local

Samuel Thompson - Thursday, April 05, 2012

—( ‘The things I love’, with thanks to Shereen M )— A surprise encounter with a childhood friend and a very brief, caffeinated catch-up led to a certain amount of introspection as I attempted to explain what TAG! is and why I shop local. Here are some of the better vocalised arguments I ended up with.

The grin-factor

Recently I’ve found myself forced to do my dinner-shopping over at Tesco, the only place open when I finally finish whatever task I’ve set myself for that day. On each occasion I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my now semi-regular cashier, one of the nicest, cheeriest men I’ve ever met; we have a spot of conversation each evening and it’s invariably a joyful experience.

Why is this worth mentioning? Because it’s so very rare. I’ve come to expect to leave my local butcher with a smile on my face, but Tesco? Not so much.

I came across the term ‘social currency’ the other day, specifically in the context of how we’ve lost it. Since shopping (or cafe-ing, or restauranting etc) is such a regular activity it seems ridiculous that anyone would choose not to ensure it was an enjoyable pastime. As it stands – with my particular shopping habits – I leave the house knowing I’m going to come back in an even better mood, a couple of good chats richer.

Value for your money

While it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that small shops will usually leave your wallet fuller, it tends to be true. We (at TAG!) originally underscored the value factor when shopping with independents – i.e. a ratio of price and quality – but I’m becoming more and more convinced that as well as better quality products you usually also end up simply spending less, despite the bulk disadvantage smaller businesses face.

If you look at the supermarket wars, for instance, you’ll notice that while ‘price crunches’ suggest massive money savings and rock-bottom prices, the truth is usually quite different. While certain products do tend to be cheaper – milk for instance – most other products definitely aren’t. Veg is my pet peeve from this week: spending silly sums on products that taste like plastic – now that I’ve become the kind of snob that only one used to fresh, tasty produce can be – isn’t really my thing.

Pride and Expertise

I have an oft misinterpreted tendency to ‘interview’ people in a quest to find out what they like and what they know. Every independent business owner I’ve had the opportunity to talk to in depth not only takes enormous pride in what they do, but also knows it inside out.

Specialists are a rare breed in most places, but not when it comes to independents. For customers that’s fantastic news. It means that the meat you buy from the butcher is going to be the best there is, and you’ll probably learn a new recipe while you wait. Or that the coffee you buy has an actual flavour, and is – dare I say it – more than just a palatable caffeine-fix. Or that the clothes you pick will be built to last and suit you to a T.

Beggars and Choosers

Big stores tend to sell mass products, rarely exposing you to anything new and never really giving you the opportunity to try something uncommon. An exception to that would be the massive HMV style music stores, but even those are disappearing.

When I go to my local greengrocer there’s almost always something new. Back in January I was advised to try the honey mangoes which had just come into season. Wow.

Small businesses who are interested in their field make sure they’re always a step or two ahead of the curve, meaning the customer constantly gets to discover new things or try new concoctions — my local deli recently expanded their garden, creating a very intriguing rose hot chocolate in the process.

Choosing between lots of different versions of the same product is boring. Having a chance to browse, be advised and find something new is brilliant.

Aren’t I missing something...?

As I said above, it was a very short catch-up. Lightning fast really. In the interests of brevity (and to avoid turning the chat into a semi-political debate) I refrained from even touching on the community and long-term economic benefits of shopping local. Another time perhaps.

Why do you shop local? Or why not?

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