I’ve been attempting to write this blog post for a couple of weeks now since The Braw Wee Emporium celebrated its first birthday a couple of weekends ago. We almost completely forgot that it was coming up to such an important landmark as we have been so busy preparing for the Braw Wee Fairs and working on our pop-up Curiosity Shop. For something that started as a bit of a side project to Glow Arts and during a period where the Scottish Retail sector has seen a decline in sales, it is something to celebrate! This post is an introduction into how it came about and why I think it is important to shop locally and support small businesses as much as you can.
Over the past year, I have learned so much about the world of retail, I was very naive about exactly what was involved or the economics of it when I had the initial idea last September. Thinking that it would just be a couple of days a week and that I could keep up with my other work while minding the shop. I certainly didn’t expect it to become the obsession it has!
The initial idea was to use the Glow Arts office space in a way that would contribute something meaningful back to the Barras community and market while filling the gap for a Folk and Jazz specialist music shop in Glasgow. This idea expanded to include a range of products from Scottish or Scottish based makers and designers which there was no provision for in the Eastend of Glasgow. There is now over 500 individual products in the Braw Wee Emporium, and we have established a growing high-quality monthly market at BAaD. We also have about a million other ideas we’d like to do too!
With the support of a lot of folks, I am extremely proud of what the Braw Wee Emporium has become. We support local makers, producers, and artists, provide a high-quality service to our customers and the local community, bring together local businesses at our Braw Wee Fairs and contribute to the local economy by buying as locally as possible. However, all of this depends on people shopping locally, particularly at this time of year when all of our spendings goes through the roof.
I did some rough calculations on what the impact if each of our Facebook likes (1248) spent just £10 at the Braw Wee Emporium, this would be a total of £12,480 (we can dream!) and this is how that would break down into the local economy.
So on average, 70% of the Braw Wee Emporium income goes directly to the makers, artists, musicians and suppliers a total of £8,736.
- We have 78 individual vendors who work with us so that would be £112 per provider.
- The remaining £3744 could pay the Braw Wee Emporium’s proportion of the rent for a year (again supporting a local business in the area) or
- Allow us to employ a local person for 57 days on living wage at £8.25 or
- Work with another 35 new independent small businesses to buy their work to sell in the shop with change left over to buy some new shop displays to showcase it on.
I know that is a bit of a pipe dream to engage all of our social media followers to spend a tenner in the Emporium, but the point is that by making the choice to spend a relatively small amount in local businesses can have a massive impact on that business. There is a great campaign currently going on called Just a Card by Sarah Hamilton, who is an artist and designer. Inspired by a quote from the owner of a Gallery that recently shut “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card we’d still be open” – I have had days like this in the shop when we have lots of folk through the door saying how lovely, funny and fantastic the shop is but leave without spending the smallest amount (we have postcards at £1). This campaign has been established to raise awareness of the impact of spending a little locally can have.
Here are some other benefits of shopping locally:
- Buy Local – Support yourself: Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses and service providers that help to strengthen the economic base of the community. For example, We get our DIY needs from Bills Tools or Pearsons, our breakfast rolls from either BAaD Cafe, Rumbling Tum or Contento’s Deli, our material from Fabric Bazaar and our sugar boosts from Glickman’s Confectionary!
- Keep our community unique: By supporting local businesses means that you have more choice on your doorstep. The unique businesses and individuals that run them are an integral part of the distinctive character of a place – the Barras is the perfect example of this, so keep shopping here!
- Invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in the community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future. They are also the largest employers nationally and provide the most jobs to residents.
- Better service: Local businesses often employ people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers. I can tell you about every single product in the Emporium, who has made it and where it has come from – and if I don’t know something I can find out because of the personal relationships I have with the suppliers.
- Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy: A small business will select its products based on the needs of their local customers and their interests rather than on a national sales plan. A marketplace of small businesses can help ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term, and a much broader range of product choices. We can also react to requests by customers – just ask!
- Reduce environmental impact: We make more local purchases which require less transportation (one of our suppliers makes deliveries on her bike).
So on the eve of Black Friday and the madness that it brings to shoppers please consider how you can support your local independent retail businesses, not just on Small Business Saturday but all year round we need your help!