There was a real good piece on the Today programme this morning about "good growth and bad growth". The idea being that we have to buy more of our own stuff in order to create demand for more UK manufacturing. Spending on infrastructure schemes is a good way to pump some life into the economy (as the autumn statement will try to persuade us today) but in the real economy we need sustainable demand to create sustainable prosperity.
Thinking more parochially, I was thinking about the West London economy and the way that we tend to "import" goods and services from other areas of the UK rather than buy locally.
For example we have brilliant businesses like the i-site - as we've said many times, the best optician in London and yet loads of us still go to huge multiples owned by businesses based overseas for an inferior service and lower value specs. We'll arrange to meet in faceless "brand" coffee shops and overlook the cracking little local cafe next door just because we couldn't remember the name.
And what about this? I want to ask all of the wonderful big businesses in west London - Coca Cola, Disney, L'Oreal, GE Capital, BBC, Sony Ericsson as well as the local authorities, the PCT's, the developers of the big scheme's such as Imperial College West, Westfield Extension and so on some simple questions.
Approximately what proportion of the money you spend on your offices in the area is spent with local (e.g. west London) suppliers?
Do you have a policy to increase that proportion of spend?
Is spending locally one of your Corporate Social Responsibility goals?
Is there anything local firms could do to increase their chances of selling to you?
Would you welcome initiatives by local businesses to present their goods and services to your staff?
I would love to know what they think and if there was a way of switching even a modest amount of their spending towards local firms. The benefits to the local economy would be huge if local spending could become a habit for all of us but even more so if it became a habit for the big businesses.
To use an earlier example - employers have a statutory duty to provide eye tests to employees at regular intervals – particularly those who use computers most of the time. The big chains of opticians make employers and offer, normally through an intermediary - because they like the new business it brings. Because it’s packaged and simple, most employers will do it and not look for an alternative. The reality is that there’s a great alternative – a local alternative – one where the service, the quality of care and the quality of any eyewear provided is far superior. It's just down King Street and it's called the i-site. As a result – happy employees and some good done for the local economy. That’s all I’m calling for but I think it’s important. Do let me know if you agree.
If you are or know anyone in the sort of firms I'm talking about here, would you mind passing on the questions - I'd really love to know what they think.
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