Nation of Shoplooters? Absolutely Not!

Well it’s been a funny week. A week in which half the country seems to have devolved from a Nation of Shopkeepers into a Nation of Shoplooters. Just as it seemed that the high street was making a come back, and that small shopkeepers had finally received recognition as an endangered species, swarms of snarling, half-human kids come along and trash it all. We know. We were in the middle of it all. We saw their faces. We’ve written about it all at some length here (but we’re not going to dwell on it).
Except. These kids are in the minority. And the UK’s reaction to the riots in the last few days has been exemplary. Heartwarming. We’re not even going to begin to try and analyse what triggered it all. Everyone has a theory – we have been discussing it over the shop counter for the last few days, and sociologists will undoubtedly be debating it for years to come. One of the best (most helpful) things we’ve read comes from the very lovely Camila Batmanghelidjh.
Leaving the negative aspects aside, what this has proved, in fact, is how very much this country loves its high streets and small shops. Tales of armies of broom-wielding citizens helping to clear up, and communities rallying round businesses and households which have been hit hard.
We were very lucky: apart from lost takings, our shop remained unscathed. But we have been overwhelmed by the reaction of our own customers, who, realising we were, er, on the front line, have been e-mailing/ringing/popping in to check up on us. And everyone wants to know how they can help.
Well you can all help: not just us, but every corner shop in the country. The best thing you can do to help repair the community and the high street, beyond the obvious amd immediate clearing up, is to keep using it and to shop locally. To reclaim your neighbourhood, and show that you are not afraid to shop there. To encourage others to shop there too. Many shopkeepers in the affected areas will be left feeling winded: first there’s a recession, and then this outbreak of criminality. Even if their businesses were not physically damaged, it would be easy for them to feel defeated, and wondering what the point is, and contemplating closure. And if shops close, the high streets will die, and then we’ll all be left in our little boxes, shopping on-line, rarely seeing each other, unaware even of who our neighbours are. The community will die.
Supermarkets have a place, and indeed many of the multiples were targeted and torched by looters, but they will recover. Not all small, independent shops will. Spread the local love, people. Go see your corner shopkeeper. Go shop.

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