There’s a particular magic that can happen when we shop on our local high streets. Transactions become interactions and purchases can feel like lucky finds. Much of this is due to the genuine passion and know-how of local shopkeepers.
Earlier this year, Visa introduced readers to a virtual high street, featuring inspirational local shopkeepers who had been forced to rethink their businesses almost overnight in response to lockdown. We learned how each of them met the challenges of continuing to operate in a world where face-to-face shopping had almost ground to a halt.
Thanks to their determination, and that of thousands of local shopkeepers up and down the country, consumers have been able to rediscover the magic of buying from local merchants, benefitting from their handy know-how and advice. So, to celebrate their wealth of expertise, here are some top tips from the shopkeepers we introduced you to earlier this year.
Successful baking: it’s all about weights and measures
Paul Rawlinson, owner of Baltzersen’s cafe and bakery in Harrogate
“The biggest mistake we see home bakers making is weighing ingredients inaccurately, so invest in a pair of digital scales. You can buy expensive ones or pick up very cost-effective options in lots of places. Weigh everything: dry ingredients, fats and liquids. It’s a well-used line that cooking is an art and baking is a science – and taking these measurements is a reason why.”
Cycling to work: protect your bike, protect yourself
Winston Farquharson, owner of SE20 Cycles, Penge, London
“If you’re planning to commute by bike for the first time, you’ll need a pump, inner tube and puncture repair kit. Second, get at least two good locks: one to secure, the other as a deterrent. One lock is not seen as a problem but two or more requires more time from the would-be thief, which in turn means more of a chance of being detected. Finally, a helmet. So, so, so useful. It’s not until you’ve had an accident with a helmet that you realise that broken piece of helmet could so easily have been a part of your head.”
Switching to zero waste: go one room at a time
Stephanie Foulds, co-owner with husband Matthew of The Eco Larder zero waste store and yoga studio, Edinburgh
“Switching to zero waste shopping can be overwhelming at first sight. What we have found helpful on our own journeys is to start with one room at a time. Beginning with your bathroom, for example, breaks it down to just a few products such as soap, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste. Before you know it, you are refilling those items and you are on your way.”
Caring for vinyl: clean and store
Steve Courtnell, owner of Pie & Vinyl, Southsea
“The secret to ensuring that vinyl stays clean and in top-notch condition is to keep the record sleeve in plastic. A good carbon fibre brush and record cleaner are always useful. When you put the record on the platter, let it rotate and have a look for any dust – give it a quick brush by holding the brush in one place and letting the record rotate. Do this after a listen also. Always put them back in their disco sleeve and then back in the cover. Store it in a dry space – we’ll get on to alphabetising later!”
Getting creative: limitations can help
Barry Whitehouse, owner of The Artery art shop, Banbury
“Many people get the urge to do something arty and as soon as they grab their brush or pencil nothing happens. Many hit this stumbling block straight away and then give up. Try keeping a sketchbook handy. Sketchbooks can come as small as a postcard in size so it is a great way for on-the-spot urges of creativity as it easily fits in a pocket or handbag. Limit the amount of time you take. Challenge yourself to do a drawing or painting in only 10 minutes. And give yourself a theme. It could be anything – chairs, shoes. Draw the ones in your home, your place of work or from photographs.”
Shopping sustainably: ask about the supply chain
Kaela Mills, owner of Sprout ethical childrenswear shop, Bexhill
“For a product to be ethical or sustainable, its production journey is important. The factory that manufactures and prints our fabrics, for example, uses the latest Global Organic Textile Standard certified technology, which reduces the consumption of water by 80% – a huge issue with the environmental impact and sustainability of cotton production.
Then there are the people involved. Their ethical treatment, pay and safety are paramount and ethical retailers should be able to provide information about this quickly and transparently.”
Threading a needle: get the right tool
Maria Sammur, owner of Really Maria craft shop in East Dulwich, London, and online
“One of my best sellers is a needle threader. It’s so easy to use and saves time. Another top seller is a seam ripper, which really is a sewer’s best friend.”
Caring for plants: water while you’re away
Siân Wild, owner of The Flower Lounge, Didsbury, Manchester
“To help your house plants thrive if you go away, try a watering globe. You can easily make your own version. Start with a clean and empty plastic bottle. For a small to medium container, a water bottle will work just fine. Drill several drainage holes into the bottle close to the top.
Before you head on holiday, water your plant as normal. Fill the plastic bottle with water, and then quickly turn it over and plunge it into the first few inches of soil in the pot. Make sure the bottle is not too close to your plant and that the bottle is deep enough that the soil covers the holes. The water will slowly leak out of the bottle as the soil dries out.”
Finding what you’re after: talk to staff
Andrea Mahoney, owner of CoLab gift shop, Bristol
“Talk to your local independent retailers. Here at CoLab, we support our local Bristol artists and makers. I listen to my customers and work directly with my suppliers to find the products they love. Running a shop of your own, you need to be fully invested in what you’re selling.”
Choosing soft furnishings: be bold
Karen Harvey, owner of Scandi-Scottish design boutique Hoos, Glasgow
“The joy of adding textiles to your room is that it gives you the opportunity to be bold and take more risks than you would with more permanent pieces such as a sofa. Pick out a colour you love from a poster or painting on your wall and bring that into your room – if it’s a vivid yellow or orange, it will really bring a fun vibe into your interior. It’s not about matching or clashing but choosing to blend colour and texture into your space.”
How to keep this invaluable local knowledge at your fingertips? Join Visa in supporting the high street. Shop local – online, or in-store. #Whereyoushopmatters.