Friday, 9 November 2012

# 119 Spending power

Do you worry how your spending habits affect the economy or do you ruthlessly go for the best deal every time? There's no doubt one of the worst enemies of the high street has been the internet. And I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to sniffing out a bargain. Ebay and Amazon are traditionally my first ports of call.

When I needed a new memory card for my phone I could have gone direct to Samsung or a high street retailer like Argos but I got what I wanted for a third of the price on Ebay.

This is good for me but what's the knock on effect to the high street who just lost out on a sale? We all know that retailers have traditionally added huge markups to products, particularly those manufactured abroad for a fraction of the price. But they've been getting away with that for years and it's kept them in business. Now their luck has run out.

When it comes to food shopping it's the supermarket that's winning. We all complain that big retailers like Tescos are moving in and setting up their Express stores in the high streets and taking business from small independent traders. And there are now huge supermarkets in every town. Whilst we might complain about them they offer what smaller high street shops and local interest stores like Coop can't do in lean times, they offer cheap. And sadly cheap is where it's at.

Six weeks until Christmas and already the sales have begun in earnest. But is it working?
Supermarkets prey on our conscience for sales. Free range, organic, locally produced are all key phrases used to reel us in, no matter how dubious their interpretation of those words. But if Tescos can offer me two weeks of meat supply for £10, on my budget I'm hardly going to question the origin because it's not as if I have the choice. And they know this. It is what it is. But I do think it's extremely sad that the high street is almost devoid of the sort of shops I went to with my mother as a child - greengrocers, butchers, deli's and the bakers.

The change in our economy has forced us into making these choices. We've been pushed into a corner. The cost of accommodation, utilities, food and travel have gone up and up and wages haven't adjusted to reflect it. We get less for our money but our money stays the same and we don't have the option to increase our budgets. Only the big stores and online sites can compete with this - safety in numbers. If one store does badly, it is generally picked up by more profitable stores elsewhere because they all contribute to one overall profit margin.

So do I feel guilty about my purchases choices? If I had the power I would shop with more consideration for local stores. But I don't have that option. I think I will always be a conscientious and careful shopper regardless of my budget because I have learnt to be careful with money, economic around the house and used to running on limited funds. I think once you learn how to live like that it becomes a way of life.

But it does affect businesses around you. I should know. I'm a business owner and like everyone else, I am feeling the pinch. 

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