In this most odd of Christmases, Matilda Siebrecht rounds off her series on shopping local with a final yule-tide musing on the meaning of shopping local
By Matilda Siebrecht
After having lived in the Netherlands for several years I have finally learnt not to stare into the huge living room windows lining the streets. But over the last few weeks as the evenings became progressively darker, it’s been all too tempting to admire the many bauble-laden trees and twinkling lights shining out in defiance of all that 2020 has thrown at us.
For small businesses in Groningen, it’s been a time of even more disappointment, as many were forced to close their doors during what they were hoping would be the peak shopping season. Most of them have adapted as best they can to the circumstances by offering pavement pick-ups and local delivery. Lots of local business owners have gone out of their way to help: a friend of mine had made an order at Scholma Lingerie that only arrived at the store after the restrictions had been imposed; but the owner offered to send it by post and offered her the option to pay by tikkie once it had arrived.
Despite this flexibility and adaptability that is the trademark of small businesses, it is likely that many of their customers will instead give in to the temptation of those large, easily-searchable online corporations. Some of you reading this are perhaps glancing guiltily at the boxes stacked by the door, or else hurriedly deleting those confirmation emails.
It’s true that companies like Amazon are easy to find and easy to order from – you don’t even need to put in your payment details any more once you set up one-click ordering. But with every click, more money goes into the pocket of an already gold-lined vat of riches; an overflowing pit of profit for a single individual who barely cares for the well-being of his own employees, let alone sees his millions of customers as anything other than walking wallets. The contrast with small business owners, who see each new customer as a valuable member of their community, couldn’t be more striking.
I was hoping to end this series of articles on a happy, festive note, but I’m not sure how successful I can be. There is no arguing with the fact that this year has been a hard one for many small businesses. However, as the thoughts and opinions from the various shop owners featured in this series have shown, there is still hope for the future. Small businesses thrive on the close relationships that they create with their customers, and the sense of community that they bring to modern society.
So, however tempting it might be to give in to the ease and efficiency of large online corporations, I hope that these articles have reminded you of that community. Of the memories that can be evoked when you see something that was lovingly crafted by a local artist, or personally recommended by an enthusiastic shop owner who you now wave to on your daily walk. Shop small, shop local, and you will have given local small businesses a very Merry Christmas.