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The value of our Independents

I was delighted to see the recent launch of campaigns to promote independent retail businesses including a project entitled ‘Destination Norwich Road’.

Independent businesses are the life-blood of any town centre, bringing with them a vibrant and differentiated offer that distinguishes one town from another. Ipswich has an abundance of great owner-run businesses, many of which are within the Business Improvement District area, managed by Ipswich Central. For those with a premises having a rateable value of £12,000 or below there are no business rates or levy costs, meaning that the occupiers retain their hard-earned income for further investment in staff, premises and stock.

A recent family bereavement – the sudden demise of our faithful washer-dryer – reminded us of the value of independents.

It was Saturday lunchtime when cries of horror were heard from the kitchen “so much washing and now no machine to do it!” Resisting the temptation to go online, we set off on a family expedition to locate a suitable replacement with a determination that it would be in-situ by teatime.

Exactly half an hour later, we arrived at a national chain outlet to be greeted by a sea of white goods, gleaming and pleading to be chosen. A helpful, if somewhat pushy, sales assistant walked us up and down the aisles, trusty tablet in hand so that every bit of information – from load capacity to drying speed – could be imparted. Eventually, we homed in on a trusted brand and uttered the words that should be music to the ears of every salesperson “we’ll take it, pay for it in full now and transport it home ourselves.” Easy sale or what!?

Expecting a handshake, if not a hug, we were met with “ah, now that could be a problem”. Fifteen minutes later, having exhausted every model in the shop, it transpired that nothing was in stock. Daring to ask why, we were told “to be honest, we really want you to go home, buy it on the internet, and take delivery when we can fit you in.”

Time to visit an independent business. No smarmy salesman, no expensive tablet, just a merry greeting and an instruction to “take your time and let us know if you need anything”. And, then we saw it, the WD80M, capable of 1400 revolutions per minute, making it faster than a jet, and with added ecobubble, whatever that is. Hesitatingly, we enquired as to its availability. The response was “we can deliver and fit a new model for you on Monday or, if you want the one you are looking at, we will knock 10% off, give you a 5-year warranty, and load it in your car for you.”

An hour later, the first full load was spinning around and we were staring at it with pride, celebratory tea and biscuits in hand. Thank you to our Ipswich independents!

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