Coronavirus, economy and post-lockdown shopping

As lockdown has eased over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk of the economy. And for every person that says it’s important to get the economy back on track, there will be another who says they don’t care about the economy.

But, here’s the thing, the economy isn’t some big, mythical thing which only affects rich people and politicians. It affects all of us – young, old, rich, poor, employed or unemployed, healthy or unhealthy…

The economy is about jobs and benefits. And it’s even about health. Because without jobs, it stands to reason that more people are going to be unhealthy. Not being in work affects people’s mental health, which often has a knock-on effect to their physical health. Which puts more pressure on the NHS. Which needs money to keep going. But less people are earning and paying taxes…

It all keeps coming back to the economy.

So what can we do to support the economy?

If we have the money, we can shop.

(That doesn’t mean shopping for pointless crap which is bad for the environment and has been produced by companies with questionable practices in the way they treat workers in their supply chain. Like Boohoo suppliers allegedly paying £3.50 an hour to staff.)

There has been much debate and judgement online between people who choose to shop and people who don’t. Everyone makes their own choices and nobody should judge them for it.

But as the coronavirus risk reduces and we inevitably start to need new things – because things break and get worn out and we haven’t been able to shop for months – we should all think about the best way to shop.

Of course, not everyone can afford to take these steps, but if you can, please consider it!

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The first and best thing you can do is shop local, with small businesses. That way, you are directly supporting a business owner and their staff – not a whole chain of suppliers stretching across the globe. Money you spend with a local business will largely stay within your local economy. So if you buy a product from a local business, they’ve got more money to spend at other local businesses. That keeps people in your own community in jobs.

If you don’t have small local businesses selling what you are looking for, look for small companies online. You are supporting people in the same way, they’re just not necessarily in your own community. If you find a product from a small business on one of the big selling sites, take note of the actual business name and buy from them directly rather than through the big site. That way, they will get far more of the money themselves.

If you can’t buy from a small business, buy from a high street retailer. Because those chains are employing people in your community. So many high street retailers have gone out of business already during lockdown and the future is far from secure for many others. If those chains are lost, the jobs will go with them.

If you are in good health and not shielding, make the effort to actually go to the high street store, either now or in the near future. Because if you buy from that retailer online, that will help to keep the business afloat, but it won’t help to keep your local store on your local high street afloat.  The only thing that will do that is people going into the store and spending money there.

If you value the opportunity to actually look at things, to check the size and the quality of the material, you need to go to shops. Because if you don’t, the shops won’t be there much longer. They will close and the pubs, restaurant and coffee shops won’t be far behind. The jobs will go and we will be left with ghost towns.

During lockdown, we have all become increasingly reliant on ordering stuff online. Of course we have. We’ve had no choice. But before you head straight to Amazon, stop and have a think. Can you buy that item from anywhere else?

Because Amazon and the other giant online retailers are destroying small businesses and they are destroying our high street chains. Amazon has lower costs than high street shops, so it can afford to cut prices. But it isn’t providing jobs in your local community. And it pays very low taxes in the UK, so it isn’t supporting the NHS or education or anything else. So if a book is 50p cheaper on Amazon than it is in Waterstones, why not just buy it in Waterstones?

Right now, the UK economy is on a knife-edge. If we don’t start spending our money on our local high streets, we may wake up to find that there are no shops left and thousands of jobs have been lost. Coronavirus wasn’t our fault, but we can all do our bit to aid the recovery of the economy.

I’m not a qualified economist, but you may be surprised to learn that I am actually a business journalist! I write about this sort of stuff all the time and it influences the way I shop myself.

Do you have any other tips on shopping and supporting the economy?

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Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. I agree. And usually I would go to the high street because I’m usually working in town so its easy (although we’ve hardly anything left in Banbury other than specialist independents). . We also go to local butcher, baker and little shops for weekend stuff. But I’m not shopping on the High St at all at the moment. I’ve bought puzzles online from independents. But when I want to buy more than one item, buying in one place means no delivery instead of postage in every online purchase, and less packaging that all the little ones (in theory if I order same day). And more convenience going to just one website. I’m not planning on visiting the high St anytime soon unless its the little town down the road.

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    • It’s good that you order stuff from independent retailers online. Visiting the town down the road is good. It’s all about supporting the local economy. Our nearest town is reasonably big and we have been and bought a few things there since the shops reopened, including my son’s suit and shirts for 6th form. I found being in the non-essential shops far less stressful than being in the supermarket, which I still hate!

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  2. A great post. The first thing we did was buy takeaway milkshakes from a local business on the high street.

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    • Thanks very much. That sounds like a good thing to do! I must say that the main independent retailer we’ve been supporting is the fish and chip shop. That little treat every couple of weeks has been a nice break from the monotony of cooking.

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  3. For me it’s not so much that I don’t care about the economy, but that when it comes down to health or the economy, the economy doesn’t factor in for me. Many people have been arguing that the economy is more important than peoples health and its better for people to die of Covid and keep the economy going, than to save lives and risk another recession. But these are peoples lives and families at stake. So I’m very much in the “save lives and sod the economy” camp. I don’t think shops should be open yet and I won’t be going in many for a long time. I appreciate that the economy is important and that many people are sadly losing their livelihoods, but its better to be alive and struggle, than be well off and dead/grieving. We only get one life.

    I didn’t know that Amazon don’t pay taxes in the UK. I am guilty of buying a LOT from Amazon due to how fast delivery is. I do buy a lot of things from small local businesses and especially friends businesses. But now I’ve read your post, I will certainly think twice about buying from Amazon in future and see if there are alternatives available.

    Thank you for such an informative and inspiring post x

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    • I totally get where you are coming from and I would never say the economy is more important than people’s health. Throughout lockdown I was totally focused on health – mainly the health of others as none of us are vulnerable. As I said in the post, it’s about shopping if you are healthy and if you can afford it, which I appreciate not everyone is in a position to do. It’s about those people who are in a fortunate position supporting others, by spending their money in the places which will have the maximum impact.
      Amazon pay a bit of UK tax, but it is shockingly low. It surprises me that people don’t know this. Buying from Amazon is always a last resort for us.

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  4. Such a good message and something we all need to be doing. Whilst it has been sad to see the effect COVID has had on bigger companies it must have devastated the smaller ones. I have made a conscious effort not to use amazon this year as I was really shocked by the amount I spent with them last year. I do try and support local businesses when I can, particularly for food and I have found the quality is so much better than in the supermarkets

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    • It’s so good to hear that you are making a conscious effort not to use Amazon! Buying food from local and independent businesses is something I admit I’m not good at! It feels to me that we don’t have many around us, but maybe I’m not looking in the right places.

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  5. I try to buy most of my meat from a local butchers and I generally prefer to buy stuff in shops if there is a local supplier. Obviously I have shopped online for a lot of bits and bobs during the pandemic, but I do generally prefer to buy in person so I can check things out.

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    • It sounds like you have got a really good attitude to it all. If I buy in a shop I am far less likely to take something back than if I’ve bought it online. Towards the end of lockdown I had to buy a new foil for my razor and guinea pig nail clippers online! Until then, we’d survived very well without online shopping. My son destroyed two pairs of trainers at the start of lockdown, so wore an old pair of his dad’s for nearly three months until we finally went to a shop a couple of weeks ago.

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  6. I didn’t know you were a business journalist 🙂 I completely agree, this is so important. I am very worried about money, we’ve not started back to days out that we used to do all the time and I am careful with the shopping we do. I know this causes a problem to the economy but until my earnings are back to normal, I can’t afford for our expenditure to go back to normal.

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    • Hardly anyone knows I’m a business journalist! I don’t even my parents know. It’s something I fell into with my freelance writing and it’s now the main thing I do. It is a very worrying time financially and of course people have to put their families first before spending any more. I’m very lucky that my work was more regular during lockdown than it usually is. I just hope it carries on that way! X

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  7. This is such a good message to share. It is sad to see the effect it is having on the small companies as well as bigger ones.
    It is habit shopping online and I will try to shop local more. xx

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    • Thanks very much. I think people were shopping a lot online before lockdown, but then lockdown left them with no choice and now they will find it hard to go back. It’s good to have online shopping available, but so important to support the high street too. X

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  8. Sarah,

    Thanks for this interesting blogpost. Just a few thoughts:
    I very rarely buy anything online, and I’ve never bought anything from Amazon. On the other hand, I don’t buy much from small independent shops other than my favourite fish-and-chip shop.
    We’re told to shop locally, shop ethically, and minimise food-miles. Unfortunately, these things are often in conflict — a local shop may be selling clothes manufactured in Asian sweatshops, or food air-freighted in from the back of beyond, thus forcing UK producers out of business.
    Some while ago, I was passing by an “artisan baker” a couple of miles from home, and glanced at the price-list in the window. The prices were jaw-dropping — way beyond what most people could afford.

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    • Thanks very much for taking the time over such a detailed comment.
      I think it’s brilliant that you rarely buy online and have never bought anything from Amazon. We do use it occasionally, but it is always a last resort for us and I’m trying to give it up completely!
      I take your point about the local shops potentially selling things manufactured in sweat shops. Sadly that could happen with many retailers and it is definitely something we should all be boycotting.
      I also take your point about the cost of things at some independent local businesses, which is why I say it is something people should only do if they can afford to, and why I am a big advocate of supporting chain stores locally. The prices at the big brands tend to be more affordable, but you are still doing your bit to support local jobs and the local economy.

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  9. Before lockdown I was doing almost all my shopping at the local independent shops and I need to get properly back to that pattern. At the moment I am still relying mainly on deliveries from Milk&More and Riverford, with only an occasional local shop. When we have a takeaway, we are splitting so that I get something from an independent, whilst the kids won’t be swayed from the likes of pizza hut or subway

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