Sunday, 25 August 2019

Are they available online?

I got told off on FB - someone said they thought this was rude...
My in-laws probably think I'm somewhat odd.  OK, they *know* I'm odd, but they probably think I'm somewhat odder than usual this week, and can't understand why I'm so bent out of shape about Costa opening in Grange-over-Sands.

As long time readers of this blog will know, I am a passionate supporter of local businesses. I live in Grange and do 80% of my shopping at Higginsons, Fletchers or the Co-Op.  I'll be honest, I rarely, if ever, buy coffee or meals out in Grange, but that's mainly because we can't afford to - although I do look forward to my chippy tea from Fish over Chips every Friday - so why does Costa bother me so much?

Because the very lovely At Home Bistro opposite is bound to suffer as a consequence.  And, if they suffer, other local businesses suffer too.  The Bistro gets their bread from Grange Bakery, their milk from the local supplier, their coffee from Farrers (Cumbrian) and their meat from Plumgarths (Kendal) so, if the Bistro suffers, all of those other business will suffer too.  (Costa bus all of their provisions in from a regional distribution centre miles away).
Fletchers - for fruit, veg & everything else!

People keep banging on about the high street and losing shops, but retail is very much a "use it or lose it" situation.  Visitors love Grange because of its unique collection of shops and cafes but, if everyone starts shopping at Tesco (opened last year) and Costa, then our high street will turn into just another of those idenikit high streets we see all over the UK.

In a different context we see it whenever we have a stall on a market to try and sell our books; I have genuinely lost count of the number of times I've had this conversation:

Customer:  Where can I buy the books?
Me (standing behind a table full of our books): Well, we're selling them here all day today.
Customer:  I mean, where else can I buy them?
Me:  Most of the local bookshops stock them.
Customer:  Are they available online?
Me:  Yes, but they're also available here, today.
Customer:  I'll just take a book mark to remind me. (Wanders off)

I *know* they're asking if Amazon sell them.  (Yes, they do).  Amazon is to me what Costa is to the At Home Bistro - which is maybe why I want to do all I can to help the little guy.
Pizza at The Estuary

One of the reasons we don't eat out in Grange (and I would LOVE to go spend an evening at The Estuary munching pizza and sipping wine) is because we simply can't afford to and one of the reasons we can't afford to is because people prefer to buy off Amazon rather than us.  We were at a market again all day today and failed to break even, again.  I chat to customers, I'm helpful, polite and friendly, I offer directions to other places they ask about or might be interested in, but still the "is it available online" folks far outnumber the wonderful "could I buy this one please" folks.

Bread and cakes in The Hazelmere
We're not alone either - our very good friends at Keswick Boot Company recently had a customer who spent 30 minutes being fitted for boots and trying on a variety of different brands before telling the owner, "Thanks, but I'll do what my wife did last year, I'll buy them cheaper online" - and people wonder why the High Street is dying!

If this sounds ranty then I apologise; I'm as wound up about the treatment of At Home Bistro and Keswick Boot Company as I am about folks buying our books on Amazon.  Maybe it's just me - I did get told off on FaceBook by someone who took offence to the image at the top of the blog and told me I was being rude.  I'm sure the multi-billionaire owner of Costa has barely slept a wink since they saw it... Other folks have said that I'm over sensitive or pessimistic and that perhaps Costa won't adversley affect the trade of the little coffee shop directly opposite, but their track record does not bear that out and their owners, Whitbread, proudly talk about their "aggressive expansion plans".

My lovely in-laws visited Costa during their stay, but it cost them more than they bargained for.  My brother-in-law had mentioned how much he'd love a jar of damson jam, so I'd bought him one as a gift, planning to hand it over later in the hols.  After their visit to Costa I revoked all damson jam priviledges.  To be fair they did also visit the At Home Bistro, S Cafe and The Hazelmere during their stay but the damage was done; the jar of damson jam remains in our cupboard and I remain unrepentant. Odd and oversensitive or justifiably principled?  I'll let you decide.

If you want to help me achieve our modest dream of enjoying a pizza and glass of wine at The Estuary, then click here for our bookstore.  If you want to buy them off Amazon then go ahead, it's a free country, but don't expect damson jam off me anytime soon... 😀