The last week of November is here which means our shop local experiment is nearly over. Inspired by the attempted revamp of the St James Street end of the market, we have spent the month trying to shop local and support local traders. It hasn’t been easy, we both work full-time and we spent time away to help my parents clear my Grans house. When my Gran died at the end of October, we considered hanging up our shopping bags and moving the challenge to January, but she was a great shopper. She used to spend hours pottering around her local shops & market, so it seemed fitting to carry on and see if we could make a go of it.
The biggest challenge we have faced is lack of time, when negotiating life you don’t always have time to spend a couple of hours browsing local shops looking for decent toilet paper. We have also had occasional problems with product quality, mainly with veg bought from some of the stalls on the market. Neither of these things really need to be considered when shopping in supermarkets, veg has to fit exact criteria, it can’t be bendy or bumpy and has to be just he right size. Supermarkets are the true definition of a one stop shop, with everything under one roof the weekly shop can be quick.
Whilst there have been a few negatives there have also been bucket loads of positives. Not least of which is the massive variety of goods on offer in Walthamstow. Yes we have more pound shops than any one place really needs, but there is some really great stuff out there as well. There is a large thriving community of artists, crafters and makers and plenty of opportunity to view and buy their wares. During the month of the challenge the artists and designers of Chapel End held their christmas fair, and the E17 designers christmas market is taking place next weekend. As well as these temporary events, Walthamstow also has some great local shops. The butchers next to the Chequers, Woodstreet indoor market, Organiclea veg stall on Hoe Street, Artisan foods on the bottom of the market. Too many to mention here but there are real gems out there if you look for them.
Now we are at the end of our challenge, what next? will we abandon the supermarkets and continue to hunt and gather on the streets of the stow? One thing that has become clear this month is that supermarkets play their part, they are convenient, cheap, and lets not forget they employ lots of local people so are also pretty important to our economy. They are hard to avoid and are great for essentials, so our plan is to try and find a balance between the chains and the independents. If we need jeans perhaps we’ll go to the shack instead of a West end store, if we want bread we’ll pop to Arts & Crusts or Artisan foods, and instead of ikea perhaps we’ll visit the chair man at Woodstreet market.
With so many big chain stores it’s a wonder that any local traders have survived, but I’m glad they have and I have really enjoyed finding and visiting them. But as the old saying goes if you don’t use it you’ll lose it, so next weekend why not shop local and see what you can find.