It occurred to me once again at the weekend how important our local shops are.
My neighbour is an elderly lady who doesn't drive, has no relatives living in the immediate area, and is determined to stay as independent as possible.
She is quite happy to get the bus, and tries to do as much of her own shopping as possible. However, she obviously doesn't want to travel far from her home each and every time she has to stock up on simple provisions, and told me yesterday how pleased she is that we still have a 'corner shop' near us. It's good for the basics, doubles as a news agents, has a post office (we are well aware how lucky we are with that!) and even takes in dry cleaning for one of the chains in the town centre.
The only reason this little handy stores survives is because it's in an area of fairly dense population, with many nearby residents consciously wanting to buy local.
My sister lives in a rural Kent village which still - just about - has a local village shop. Sadly its post office was closed down within this little store about 2 years ago, and despite a vested local interest, the little shop struggles to maintain its commercial footing. The loss of the Post Office was catastrophic to their custom, and the owners have had to adapt with what they sell, and the hours they are open. They also do a mean sideline in supplying specialist dishes to the local pub next door (the shop owner cooks up a mean curry), which is diversity in the extreme! My sister has neighbours not unlike mine in terms of age and determination, yet obviously being in a rural location it make it even more important to ensure they retain the fantastic resource that is the local village shop.
My conversation with my neighbour has reminded me how precious our local traders and suppliers are, and although we live in a more densely populated area with more choice in terms of big chains and supermarkets, it makes me even more determined to go out of my way to buy local - form the independent reatailers - as much as possible.
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Kim Frances is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.