Independents Day 2012

Independents Day 2012When I woke up this morning the first thing my American wife said to me was “Happy Independence Day”. On this day in 1776 the United States declared independence from Great Britain and the rest, as they say, is history.

I told my wife that it was also Independents Day 2012 here in the UK with a campaign being run to support local small shops. Then I struggled to think of who the independent retailers might be in our local “high street”.

Farnborough in Hampshire doesn’t have a particular “centre” or main high street as such, but the closest to our office here at is the Princes Mead Shopping Centre. There is a hulking great Asda supermarket dominating the view from the car park, and inside the mall there are the usual big name brands – Boots, WH Smith, Game, Costa Coffee, Subway, Burger King, Blockbuster, Carphone Warehouse…

Then there is the original high street which was disastrously pedestrianised in the 1960s and has recently been partly redeveloped – New Look, JJB Sports, Greggs, O2, Wimpy…

The latest development was the new Sainsburys supermarket which was supposed to have a Gala Bingo venue above it with a Travelodge, Wetherspoons pub and a Papa Johns pizza chain in the same block.

And finally there’s Kingsmead, Farnborough; a 1970s shopping centre with multistory car park adjacent and offices (Rushmoor business centre) above – It has an Argos, Debenhams, Wilkinsons, Hinds, Holland & Barrett…

Remembering the Names of the Independent Retailers

Amidst all these well known and instantly quotable big names I felt guilty that I couldn’t recall the names of the independent retailers in the town centre.

The first one that came to mind was Good Taste, the local bakery/coffee shop that has 3 or 4 stores locally; I visit regularly and their Cornish pasties are really excellent.

After that – yes, I racked my brain to recall any more independent shop names – Paul Rochere, the jewellers, that I have never set foot in; the cobblers – He cuts keys, mends shoes, does engraving, supplies cheap watch batteries; The tattoo artist – I won’t be stopping by there;  or the music shop – Stage Beat (I had to Google it – see, I couldn’t even use an independent local search engine to find that); Farnborough Cycles, the Brow Bar…

Amidst these few stores that I challenged myself to remember, there are the usual charity shops and empty retail units – Party Land closed last week and Book Boyz premises have been vacant for months. We lost our independent family butchers, artist & photography supplies and carpet shop some years ago and these have never been replaced (Except by charity shops).

Shouldn’t Every Day be Independents Day?

It’s a real mixed landscape of the same big names in the next towns, Aldershot, Fleet or Camberley, with those little independents and charity shops and empty units. That’s why today, at lunch break, I will make an effort to catch the names of the independents, to count the abandoned units and spend my cash with the sole trader retailers that bring individuality and character to our town centre; they need our support, our encouragement, our business and our cash, after all it is Independents Day 2012.

Right, where’s Malcolm the hotdog seller, I need some lunch…

By is4profit editor Paul Mackenzie Ross

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