Businesses Back Shop Local Campaign

BUSINESS groups have backed an environmental group's campaign urging consumers to shop locally.Friends of the Earth launched its “Shop Local First” drive yesterday amid growing concerns that unless shopping habits change, the great British high street will disappear.

By Sarah Chambers

BUSINESS groups have backed an environmental group's campaign urging consumers to shop locally.

Friends of the Earth launched its “Shop Local First” drive yesterday amid growing concerns that unless shopping habits change, the great British high street will disappear.

It argues that by switching shopping allegiances, consumers can also help the fight against climate change.


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Launched ahead of the Office of Fair Trading's final report on its inquiry into supermarket dominance in the market place, due in early May, the campaign, which aims to promote the benefits of small shops has been backed by the East Anglian branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, and by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

Friends of the Earth argues that small shops are currently struggling to survive due to the power of the big supermarkets, with more than 2,000 independent shops going out of business in 2004.

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It says the problem comes from the growing power of the supermarkets, with the four biggest already controlling over three quarters of the grocery market.

“Local shops are being put out of business on a daily basis because of the growing power of supermarkets,” said Friends of the Earth supermarket campaigner Sandra Bell.

“Popping to your local shop for a pint of milk will no longer be an option unless more shoppers change the way they shop. If we all shop local first, then we can help save our local shops, boost the local economy and also help do our bit to tackle climate change.”

Tesco recently announced plans to improve its environmental credentials, but Friends of the Earth maintained that shopping locally was still the better option, especially if shoppers leave their cars at home and buy locally-sourced food.

Campaigners around the country are set to work with local shopkeepers to develop local shopping promotions, such as loyalty cards, discounts, posters and local shop directories.

Friends of the Earth pointed out there were benefits from shopping locally, including that local shops were more likely to provide local food that hadn't been flown halfway around the world, and provided a more personal service. They also kept money circulating in the local area, and often provided better value. They also claimed they were more energy efficient than huge superstores, and provided more choice.

Jeanette Thurtle, the East Anglia regional organiser for the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed the Friends of the Earth initiative and said her organisation fully supported it.

“Unless people appreciate the service, flexibility and unique selling points of their local small shops, they will be lost forever.

“At present, these valuable community resources can be taken for granted. One day soon, shoppers could look around their high street and wonder where the shops have gone,” she said.

“In Suffolk, we ran a successful “Use it or Lose it” campaign in conjunction with Suffolk County Council. This campaign highlighted the benefits to communities of local services, the problems that occur if local services disappear, and tried to encourage Suffolk and neighbouring consumers to support local retail services.

“Norfolk and Suffolk have a number of market towns with many small retailers. If we want to see these towns prosper, we must support the local shops first.”

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, also backed the campaign.

“We are a rural county. We have got a lot of market towns, so it's important that the local community does shop as locally as it can because it's about supporting the local economy and local business,” he said.

He pointed out that by doing so, shoppers were reducing carbon emissions.

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