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22 May, 2006

Best sellers

As I've said before, I don't believe in buying locally merely for the sake of supporting local retailers.  If corner shops and independent bookshops are out-competed by supermarkets and national chains, too bad; they represent obsolete market sectors which should be allowed to die if they're unwilling or unable to offer something unique.

And that's the key point. Good independent bookshops aren't inherently obsolete, and can provide added value that chains can't, including specialist expertise, individual service and atmosphere.

Some attempt to replicate the national chains' homogenous retail units and promotional tactics without the backing of national distribution networks, influence with publishers and economies of scale. Understandably, they struggle, relying on people 'doing the right thing' by artificially supporting their local bookshops. So far as I'm concerned, merely being small and local is insufficient justification for existence, and relying on customers' charity is an awful business model. Such shops fail.

However, as Stephen Moss, writing in the Guardian, found, bookshops which focus on their strengths and offer a unique environment are surviving, even thriving.

It can't be easy, and wouldn't work for everyone. Specialist is rarely ubiquitous, and it's logical to presume that the days of there being an independent bookshop on every high street are gone. In researching his article, Moss couldn't find a single independent bookshop in central Manchester, and I can't think of one in Lancaster (not counting the specialist sci-fi one, and the less said about that, the better). I don't have a problem with that.

Comments

Some farmers over here (Sweden) used to demonstrate for their local milk and stuff, Lidl being their prime target. Their (the farmers) actions remind me somewhat of nationalistic propaganda, such stunts which were performed in Germany during their dark age, last century.

Posted by Max Magnus Norman at May 22, 2006 04:11 PM

Food is one exception to my general view.
There's no inherent benefit in buying a book locally, as it hasn't been manufactured locally. However, I'd prefer buy milk from local dairies, not because of any political or emotional regard for Lancashire's farmers, but simply to minimise the expenditure of resources in transporting it from cow to cup.
Likewise, if I buy lamb, it'll be British rather than from New Zealand, not because British is better, but because the food miles are lower.

Lidl was also attacked in Norway a couple of years ago, but that was the big Norwegian retailers against the foreign 'invader', not locals against a multinational.

Posted by NRT at May 22, 2006 04:34 PM

It's not that simple; yes there will in some cases be a few less transports if buying local food, but not that many. The farm vehicles need parts and fuel from abroad, farm animals also eat a lot, and the farmers usually buy feeding stuff where it's cheapest, IOW from abroad. Also, when milk is sent to be processed, or cattle are sent to slaughter, the freight distances often become unbelievable long.

But that's not my point, my point is that some people instead of finding fair ways to compete and cooperate with new influences instead try to go an easy way and pull the classic appeal-to-nationalistic-feelings stunt.

Posted by Max Magnus Norman at May 24, 2006 11:07 PM

The distances covered by fuel, vehicle parts and animal feed are a given, and are no different whether the produce is transported 5 km to a local market or 500 km. It is, however, possible to make a difference to the other side of the food miles equation, by buying locally.

Posted by NRT at May 25, 2006 12:27 AM
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