Local Independent Businesses

It’s Easter Sunday (or “Easter Day” as the news have now started calling it), so this is the perfect time for me to rant about something that irritates me.

Today, in England, “larger” shops are not allowed to open. Small shops can open like Tesco Express, Sainsbury’s Local, and anything else which is less than 280 square metres in size. What a ridiculous rule that is.

Now I know it’s closed because it’s a religious day (for Christians), but as an atheist, why can’t I nip down to B&Q to get some nails, so I can finish a DIY job I’m doing in the garden?

Possibly the bigger annoyance is this size nonsense. Surely it either IS or ISN’T acceptable to work on this holy day? Except in this case, it seems that is acceptable, if you have a shop of less than 280 square metres. Why 280? Why not 300? Or 250?

And with this being the case, I’d expect every local independent shop to open today. Think of the trade. All those people who complain about Tesco running them into the ground – well Tesco can’t open today. You’ve got the market all to yourselves. So why are you closed?

And this is the perfect time for to moan about something which small businesses could do so much better.


This morning I visited the websites of both Tesco and Sainsbury’s. I don’t need anything, but I wondered if they were open. On both sites, there is an “Easter Opening Hours” right on the front page. So I now know that most of their small stores are open for their normal hours.

As mentioned above, I’m doing a bit of DIY in the garden. Given B&Q aren’t allowed to open, I wonder if a local hardware store is open. I’ve just been to their website and it starts “New in 2009!” How embarrassing that your website evidently hasn’t been updated in more than 2 years.

Gloucester Road (my nearest shopping-area/high street) in Bristol seems to have two websites devoted to the local independent shops. One claims to be the “official” site of Gloucester Road (presumably the other is a rogue competitor). So, does either tell me which shops are open today? No.
A lot of the stores don’t have their own websites, and I’ve not clicked through all of them, but of of the random sample I did find, none of them mention Easter opening hours. One of them didn’t even mention their normal opening hours. Am I meant to guess when they’re open?

A few weeks back, an episode of Gardener’s World was discussing compost tea. My girlfriend Googled this, and found the website for a local plant nursery talking about how they have just started brewing it, but it was only available on one brewing day, each week (it has a short shelf life if not constantly mixed, or something).
We thought we’d try a bottle of this fertiliser on a patch of our lawn that’s not doing very well, so we turned up, expecting to buy some, only to find out that the brewing day was the day before, and they had none they could sell us. When my girlfriend told them it was on their website as the day we were there, they checked, and said “oh that’s last year’s date”. They told us the site hadn’t been updated recently, then logged in and corrected it – right in front of us. No apology for wasting our time.

There’s not really any excuse for that. We were there during a weekday, and the place was deserted. There were more staff than customers, and they can’t even be excused for not being tech-savvy enough to do it, as they can do it while they’re talking to us.

I don’t like shopping in chains, especially. I prefer buying fruit and vegetables from a green grocer (and they’re normally cheaper), and I get much better service in a small hardware shop, than I’ve ever experienced in B&Q.
You have to help yourselves though. A basic web presence (location, contact details, and opening hours) wouldn’t go amiss, and if you choose to open 9-5 Mon-Fri, the only customers you get will be the unemployed and elderly.

P.S. My girlfriend emailed the garden centre asking if they might do some compost tea brewing on weekend days (so that people who work full time can still purchase this product), and got back a surprisingly rude reply, asking if she could guarantee they would have enough customers to sell it to. Tesco might not be the most pleasant shop in the world, but at least when I asked if they could restock my preferred shower gel, they didn’t ask me to guarantee that I could bring in additional customers to purchase it. Ridiculous.


I feel obliged to mention this. Yesterday (Bank Holiday Monday), I went to a small independent shop that was open. Henleaze Garden Centre, well done. Was it worth their bother? Well there was one person paying for their products, and another 3-4 browsing, not including me. For a small shop, that’s not bad, especially as the rest of the street was almost completely closed. Henleaze Garden Centre aren’t closed for the Royal Wedding either. Check it:

They're small, they're not a big evil chain, they're OPEN!

Well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *