Do you believe the news stories about how if you want to keep your high street shops open, shop local? Or how shopping in independents puts money back into the local economy? Perhaps the message without the maths to back it up makes it all sounds a bit wishy-washy. So here goes, a real-life example with data from this independent wool shop.
The Sheep Shop is an award-winning LYS (local yarn store) which had its fifth birthday in November. Last year we took £60,500. The annual cost for rent, gas, electric, water, phone, broadband, insurance, alarm maintenance, heater maintenance, fire extinguisher checks, not one but two licenses to play music on the radio, waste disposal, web hosting costs, sundries like till rolls, printer ink, loo rolls and teabags, carrier bags, window cleans, anti-moth systems, occasional repair costs or new shop fixtures, card processing fees, card machine rental, business membership, knitting magazine subscription fees and advertising (deep breath) came to £15,500. I’m a bit of a tightwad so don’t think I’m paying over the odds for anything, nor buying anything I don’t need to.
Once the cost of new stock, teacher’s fees and their travel and accommodation costs are factored in there was £9,000 left, then once business loan repayments made, my take-home pay was £5,120. That just about paid my personal rent and utilities so working tax credits – formerly £50 per week now £25 – is what I exist on, supplemented by my wonderful mother who every so often has surprised me with a big supermarket shop and filled my freezer. My very lovely boyfriend (who I lured in on an online dating site with a statement that when I make my millions, he will benefit!) patiently puts up with me squawking if he wants lots of meat for dinner and my friends have almost stopped asking me to go anywhere or do anything.
Claiming tax credits when it is my choice to be self-employed used to make me feel a bit uncomfortable before I thought it through. Several times more than those tax credits is going into the pockets of my (wonderful) teachers alone each week in class fees and if the shop did not exist I suspect it mostly wouldn’t be, so I feel the shop is a net gain to the public purse.
Of what the shop sells, 35% of our money goes to local suppliers or teachers. 15% goes to other, truly British suppliers or teachers. 38% more goes to British suppliers but as not all their yarn is made in the UK some of that will end up abroad. Under 13% goes direct to foreign businesses. Of the other goods and services we buy, where there is a choice, such as servicing the air conditioning, we use local contractors. Apart from our purchases of things like knit group biscuits from the supermarket next door, and unavoidable things such as card processing fees, nearly all the money we spend is going back into British non-global-corporation hands.
Happily, my business loan has finally been paid off. My (extremely lovely) landlady, who asks for a reasonable rent compared to most Cambridge premises, will probably still earn more than I do from the shop (with the crazy state of rents, if she turned this shop into flats she’d earn even more). Shopkeepers talk, and almost every independent shopkeeper I have spoken to is earning less than minimum wage (quite often next to no wage) for a more than full time job. If more people shopped with us, can you imagine the sparkly rainbows of delight you would be enveloped in every time you shopped in your even-happier-LYS-owner’s shop?
Some indie shops are able to offer online shopping and buying from them means you are keeping a LYS open somewhere. Buying something you could get in a local shop from a discount online warehouse makes this happen. The choice is down to you, if you want to keep shops on the high street they need to be shopped in, and every person counts.