When a customer buys from a local business it’s a no-brainer that the majority of the money they spend remains within the community; yet each year around Christmas time, we hear about the increase in online sales sounding the deathknell for the small local business man/woman who is, against the odds, battling for survival in their bricks-and-mortar store.
Now, while you may be reading this thinking, but sure if some in the bricks-and-mortar fraternity adapted and kept up with the times and trends, surely they’d have no trouble competing in the strong e-commerce market. And yes, while that’s a perfectly logical analysis, the fact is dear readers, without the Holy Grail that is super-fast and super-efficient broadband, our local businesses cannot even get their foot on the online sales ladder, gain traction and compete in this lucrative market.
So what’s got Mir on her soapbox; I hear you ask! Well, I’m sure you’re all familiar with last week’s findings by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland report which warned us that ‘small-town Ireland is facing a ‘perfect storm’ which has torn the heart out of life on main street,’ something which I think you’ll probably all agree is very worrying, making it sound like living and shopping in rural Ireland is stark, joyless, oppressive and, well, downright bloody miserable.
However, as someone who has come from the big smoke to live here among you lovely people, I can tell you that yes, while I understand business owners are facing a major struggle for survival in Roscommon, it’s been my experience that shopping and socialising in our little towns, in particular our wonderful county town, is anything but cheerless and uninviting; nay, for me, it’s a real pleasure! And, if I may appear a little bit disloyal to my native Dublin, I find that Roscommon is probably one of the cosiest places to spend one’s hard-earned Christmas present-buying cash, because of the variety of independently owned shops, boutiques, hair and beauty salons, restaurants and hotels, and I would hate to think this report, (thorough, informative, and highly sympathetic though it is), would give consumers the impression that folks here in Roscommon are living in a Dickensian state of grinding poverty and baa humbug(esque) misery, when we are not!
We’re full of the joys of the season and, with our trademark friendliness oozing out of every pore…I say ‘our’ and yes, I know I’m a blow-in, but you’re stuck with me, so deal with it…it means our local towns and villages are the perfect place in which even the most stressed out shopper/diner/visitor can immerse themselves when seeking the ultimate traditional Christmas experience…so there.
And, as if proof were needed, sure only last Friday, having experienced a c**p week, my face, which, following many sleepless nights, looked like a bag of melted toffees, (even after I’d trowelled on a shed-load of make-up), lit up the second I parked my car…for free, I may add. Hearing the joyous strains of seasonal ditties chiming from the main street’s speakers, I bounced along like a born-again geriatric teenager drunk on tonic wine, such was the wonderful festive atmosphere wafting through the streets. Despite the fact I was short on time, I felt encouraged to take an hour to myself and pop into one of the family owned, independent restaurants in the town for a cup of original coffee, a homemade artisan scone and buy a loaf of their heaven-sent treacle and walnut loaf; which I’m stock-piling in the freezer for the fussy rellies when they arrive.
So what I’m trying to say folks is that yes, while rural towns and businesses are struggling, and missing out on the power of online sales, they have the potential to win the war by offering us, the loyal customer, in-store exclusives, invitations to events that provide discounts, and other little perks that not only make it convenient for us to shop with them, but make us feel confident that by spending our money locally we are getting the best ever deal, thus creating and generating local brand loyalty.
And yes, while buying local means convenience and better service, remember Minister Bruton, our one-of-a-kind, little businesses still need high speed broadband in order to be able to diversify and compete with the impersonal big-box retailers whom, if you call with a query, put you on hold before transferring you 50 times to a customer service individual who’s so far removed from your particular query, they couldn’t give a toss if the company loses you as a customer! Something which won’t happen with a face-to-face, bricks-and-mortar business owner!
Time to get the girls out for mammo number 5!
The window envelope marked ‘strictly private and confidential’ appeared last week containing the dreaded BreastCheck reminder that the girls are due their now routine mammogram.
Now, while there’s been a lack of candour around some national screening programmes, (the CervicalCheck scandal still rages on), readers may know that BreastCheck, (the longest running free screening programme in the country), did finally reveal last May that reviews and re-checks of mammograms were being carried out. This could be worrying; especially if a review reveals errors were made in analysing mammograms, etc. However, like most women, I’m aware there are limitations to screening, and a certain failure rate is inevitable; so with that in mind, I’d urge you all not to fall prey to the scaremongering and to please attend your appointments – even if it’s only to see how incredibly flat your boobs can go!
Seriously… stop the eye-rolling; I’m only tryin’ to inject some humour and normalise the process for ladies who, like me, may be unenthusiastic about having the twins handled, and then squashed between two metal plates by a complete stranger with freezing hands!
Furthermore, even though a system of open disclosure ensuring women whose tests are reviewed will not be in place until 2019, I will definitely not be missing my mammo because, to their credit, BreastCheck is a great service, and has identified thousands of cancers through this screening process…meaning it does work! I will add that, like all screening programmes, BreastCheck are morally obliged to let individual women know if errors have been made.