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Obama – a Labour saving device?

According to the BBC:

The UK should emulate the US idea of having a day dedicated to encouraging people to shop at small, local shops, Labour’s Chuka Umunna has said.

Well why not?  We are doing our best to emulate the US’s trillions in debt after all.  What could go wrong?

The shadow business secretary has asked American Express – which sponsors the US initiative – to see if they could bring the idea to the UK this year.

Errrr, but isn’t American Express part of the evil capitalist system Labour keeps warning us about?

He has suggested 7 December as the first “Small Business Saturday”.

The anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour?  I can see how that will go down well.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it was an idea which would be considered.

But clearly not acted upon hence a tip of the wink to AmEx in the hope they’ll be willing to stump up help out.

In the US the idea of a day to promote local traders began in 2010 and traditionally follows Thanksgiving.

And in case we haven’t got the message…

President Barack Obama and his daughters visited an independent book shop on Small Business Saturday.

Complete with a pic of the Obama girls going shopping with their old man.  No photo opportunity will be overlooked.

US figures suggest US consumers aware of the promotion, which is heavily plugged in social media and enjoys celebrity support, spent £3.4bn in small shops on the day this year.

But doesn’t actually mention how much would normally have been spent in local shops on the previous Saturday or on the same day the year before.  So there goes any idea of context.  Oops!

As for celebrity support?  He’s kidding isn’t he?  Isn’t he…?

In the UK a similar idea, on a smaller scale, has seen a day dedicated to encouraging people to use their local record store.

That statement is almost beyond fisking but I’ll try.  Why on earth would music lovers want to do that in the age of the much cheaper interwebby download thingy and Amazon?

Mr Umunna said: “We must do more to celebrate the contribution local, small independent businesses make to our economy and encourage people to buy from them.

As long as they are record shops?  Surely Chuka should be doing more to prevent shop owners losing money through criminal activities like burglary, robbery and shoplifting.  Crime is as much a threat to the livelihood of local shop owners, especially in cities and towns, as supermarkets and retail parks.  Not to mention being the victim of crime is traumatic in the extreme.

For some reason Chuka doesn’t mention the problem of loss of revenue due to the underclass robbing honest people blind.  It’s clearly not an issue.

Establishing a Small Business Saturday in the UK, a concept which has enjoyed considerable success in the US, would provide a small but simple and effective way to celebrate local small businesses and encourage more people to buy from them on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Clearly Chuka has never been shopping with keeping the cost as low as possible in mind.  And what bleeding business is it of his where people chose to spend their money?  How come he’s so concerned all of a sudden?  Did he get a retail Damascene conversion while perambulating along Streatham High Street yesterday?  Or does he have an agenda?  Something to do with union donations to Labour maybe?

A Small Business Saturday in the UK is something all local authorities, whatever their political persuasion, could support and promote.

Yes they could.  And I could tell them to mind their own scammelling business.  I shop where I like.  I could also demand they stop wasting our bloody money on stupid, doomed to failure initiatives!

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would consider the idea, but stressed the action already being taken to support independent traders in England.

Supporting them by strangling them in red tape, by ensuring that prices and overheads skyrocket, by taxing them out of business?  I reckon that’s precisely the sort of help local traders can do without.

Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk said: “We’re determined to offer practical support to our High Streets, which is why we’ve doubled the amount of small business rate relief to new and smaller shops.

If it’s such a huge relief why are small shops going out of business at an increasing rate?  Or am I imagining the proliferation of empty shop premises that used to be independent businesses blighting our high streets?

This is one part of a multimillion-pound package of support to Town Teams and Portas Pilots up and down the country, including mentoring from retail experts and workshops to address the challenges they face.

Chucking millions at more frigging quangos?  Is that the sum of Labour’s solution?  Oh please, just do one will you…

And for budding entrepreneurs, we’re providing over £80m of start-up loans for young people starting their own businesses.

What’s wrong with them pushing a fruit and veg barrow?  Or cleaning cars?  You know, like old fashioned budding entrepreneurs did?  Why should unproven little buds get an advantage that established but ailing businesses can’t? Who foots the bill when those same little buds fall flat on their faces?  Or are we to assume that every one of them is going to be a fabulous success?  Where is this money going to come from and at what rate of borrowing?

Oh, wait.  It’s going to come from us poor buggering taxpayers isn’t it.  Therefore it doesn’t matter that Sound-bite Chuka is advocating the highly potential waste of £80 million to salve his and Labour’s conscience.

It’s not his money, is it…


  1. Mr Ed says:

    Someone on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning 2nd Jan was crediting Mrs Obama with reducing obesity significantly in the US, Nigel Lawson (Mrs Thatcher’s Chancellor) to his credit scoffed (:-)) at that notion, only to find himself chided by his opponent.

    So now the Labour Party expect us to spend what’s left of our money where it pleases them? Can they ever imagine that they might be better just shutting up and going away?

  2. Stonyground says:

    Regarding the obesity thing. At work today, the subject of BMI nonsense came up in conversation and I related a story of a weighing machine at a leisure centre that combined my weight and height and told me that I was overweight. This was twenty years ago, I was 34 years old and at the peak of fitness. I cycled a twenty mile round trip to work and back every working day. I swam regularly and usually did a hundred lengths. I am a second dan black belt in karate and at that time was training three or four hours every day. Even now I am of a generally slim build although at 54 I am a little soft around the middle.

    Anyway, this little conversation prompted me to google BMI calculators, I know what I weighed back then because I competed at karate in the under 75kilo category and often had to get weighed in my pants to qualify. So I entered my year of birth as 1958, my height as 173cm, and my weight as what it was twenty years ago, 75kg. And guess what? I am on the border line between normal and overweight. Were I to get weighed now I would guess I will be about 95kg which would put me definately into the overweight category.

    If a fifty-four year old who has the physique of a really fit thirty-four year old can be classed as border-line overweight, you just can’t help but smell the bullshit.

  3. Stonyground says:

    Regarding the OP. Some people really don’t grasp how the world works do they? Businesses become successful by providing a product that people want, at a price that people want to pay. It really isn’t any more complicated than that. The difficult part is actually finding a way to do that. Government interference really doesn’t help.

  4. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Sure to be as successful as the various ‘Buy British’ initiatives politicians came up with in the 1960’s and 70’s.

    Arguably the only thing less successful than a politician telling me to do something would be a celebrity telling me to do something. Or maybe the local council, who would use the money they extracted by force to print pointless, unwanted promotional material suggesting people shop locally (what ever that means).

    And I have to say. if I was Mr Tesco shelling out £250K in business rates for my superstore, I would not be thrilled to have the council telling people not to buy my products.

    The ‘Local growth minister’ (a new one one me I must confess, and I can’t see how lots of local growth isn’t national growth?) might be best employed saying to his civil servants “this is pointless, sorry but you are all fired, I resign and suggest this post is abolished”

    I was once at one of these business Hampshire type things and some drone was banging on about local grants (you know, persuade someone who has never done business to give you money extracted from another one). I asked the audience (there were about 50 of us) how many people had ever had any government money. The answer ~ Nil.

  5. RAB says:

    Bristol has it’s own currency you know? Oh yes, the Bristol Pound. The idea? Well to encourage all us locals to shop locally…Doh! But in the little local shops, not the big nasty multi-national ones.

    So how’s this going to work then when they announced it to huge fanfare, I said to myself. Someone has to pay to print up the paper money, and administer it, and as it is one for one parity with Sterling, someone’s going to make a loss. Well fair enough, those buying their Bristol Pounds early get a 5% discount, so £95 gets you 100BP. But how many little local business’s are partaking? Well all the already unsuccessful ones it seems to me.

    My local bakery, the Breadstore, probably the best bread and pastries, savories you will find in Bristol, is not in the scheme. Why? well although they are a small business, they are a very successful one, they can sell out of everything they produce by lunchtime somedays.

    I support my local shops big or small, my parents ran a small business after all, but in order to survive we got innovative and moved with the times and tastes of our customers. This support your local … whatever, is just so much wank and politics.

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    Okay, so you hammer small businesses with endless regulation and red tape suggested by your big business chums that’s deliberately designed to harm them, then you blame consumers for their difficulties, declare a big National Beanfeast (for which they’ll have to pay), and get a few of your toadies to turn up at the local corner shop to make it look as if they care.

    They must think we’re bloody stupid.

    “Sure to be as successful as the various ‘Buy British’ initiatives politicians came up with in the 1960’s and 70’s.”

    Millipede reckons we should have another stab at those, too. I suppose that’s what they mean by “Old Labour“.

  7. “For some reason Chuka doesn’t mention the problem of loss of revenue due to the underclass robbing honest people blind.”

    Of course not: he’s the MP for Streatham (where your humble Devil abides, as it happens): he’s not going to draw attention to those kinds of people or he’d have no voters left.*


    * Unless the European Court of Human Rights gets its way, of course.

  8. RAB says:

    Ah yes, buy British! I was in a Brittany Supermarket last year, it was the size of an Aircraft Hanger. Want to see a pic of the British section?

    Taking the piss or what??

    They flog more stuff to us than we do to them. Let’s just leave the EU and watch noses spiting faces, they’re in enough trouble as it is.

    Streatham, eh Devil? Know it quite well, the Common, park and that funny little wooden cafe…

  9. John Galt says:

    Genuinely local shops from your butcher to the haberdashery have been under threat since the introduction of the supermarket and this has been exacerbated by the growth of the internet.

    The ever rising cost of operating a local business, especially rental costs, rates, Minimum Wage, etc. meant that these businesses were already operating at the very margins of profitability, with the downturn in trade since 2008 these marginal businesses have simply gone bust, accounting for about 15-20% of the high street.

    The only sector that seems to be expanding is charity shops, since they are exempt from rates, are given their stock for free and generally staffed by volunteer labour (therefore no National Minimum Wage).

    If any politician REALLY wanted to reinvigorate the high street then they would exempt local shops from the vast majority of regulation (including rates and national minimum wage) that has crushed the life of the high street.

    As we all know, this will never happen, especially not from Chuka Umunna’s statist fantasy party. This is just about more government intervention which in turn has to be paid for by more tax revenue or more debt.

    We should also not forget that the internet has been a great liberator of niche businesses. I doubt that “Mrs. Jones Exotic Soaps” could remain a viable business on any high street, but on the internet, it can thrive and grow, largely because the costs can be reduced down to stock and postage (web-hosting being a fractional cost of sales nowadays).

  10. Julie near Chicago says:

    JG is quite right, of course, in all his points.

    Personally, I think there is a need for both–the Big Internet stores like Amazon, AND the local shops–for instance bookstores (yes, the big ones like Borders) and yarn shops. When I say “there is a need,” I mean that I and some others need to be able to examine the merchandise personally, which is NOT to say that there are enough of us to support such stores and NOT NOT NOT to say that The Gov should do anything to support (nor to disable, of course) such shops.

    Who knows…if it weren’t for the overwhelming weight of financial and legal burdens, perhaps water would find its own level and there would be both kinds of emporia, or at least enough to keep the complainers among us (that would be I) relatively quiet.

    Of course, 95% of my books nowadays come from Amazon (mostly used). The rest from library sales and thrift stores. :)

  11. JuliaM says:

    “…having a day dedicated to encouraging people to shop at small, local shops..”

    I do that every day. I buy my morning paper. Every week, I get my drycleaning done.

    Other than that, my local shops have nothing I want.

  12. JuliaM says:

    Stonyground: “If a fifty-four year old who has the physique of a really fit thirty-four year old can be classed as border-line overweight, you just can’t help but smell the bullshit.”

    Quite so. We need a different measure of obesity. Perhaps the amount of skin requiring removal post-diet will serve?

  13. JuliaM says:

    Sam Duncan: “They must think we’re bloody stupid.”

    Well, we do keep voting for them…

  14. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    My ‘local’ shop is a Tesco metro, so do I have to support that or not y’reckon?

  15. Lynne says:

    Actually my local village shops do quite well since they also service the surrounding villages and are convenient. We have a butcher, baker, delicatessen, fishmonger and greengrocer. They are owned and run by local people. We also have a local Spar, a Tesco Express and a Co-op. The big boys, particularly the Co-op, spend a lot of energy enticing people into their shops by deliberately undercutting the local businesses. So much for Fair Trade and all that guff.

    I support the local shopkeepers whose products are sourced mostly locally. The fresher food tends to taste better too. For items that are not fresh I shop at the nearest Morrisons. It’s much cheaper.

  16. Stonyground says:

    BMI update. I got weighed and actually weigh in at 85kg, so I googled another BMI calculator and guess what? I am now at the high end of overweight, close to being obese in fact. If any of you could see me you would laugh. As I said before, I am now a little soft around the middle but I have a 36″ waist FFS. Of course we have an obesity epidemic if we go about saying that thin people are obese.

    On the subject of dying high street shops. How many towns now have two or three modern shopping malls? These have convenient parking, are bright and modern and, especially at this time of year, have the advantage of being warm and dry.

  17. *innocent face* says:

    “Genuinely local shops from your butcher to the haberdashery have been under threat since the introduction of the supermarket….”
    No they haven’t.
    Visit the two towns nearest where I live in France. RAB’s post’ll give you a clue about French supermarkets. In fact, don’t think most Brits have ever seen a proper supermarket. Some French one’s you can’t see across them because the curvature of the earth intervenes. They sell ranges of motorbikes. Cars. Have DIY sections the size of B&Q. The one’s in the local towns are more modest. A mere 350 varieties of cheese & 4 aisles of booze. About 50metres of wet fish counter. And only a couple for each town. Oh & Lidl, Auchan, Boucherer….. Doesn’t stop the towns being full of small shops doing healthy trade, though. Or both having full scale weekly markets.

  18. Laird says:

    “In the US the idea of a day to promote local traders began in 2010 and traditionally follows Thanksgiving.”

    That gave me a good snort. “Traditionally”? After only 3 years? Even Kwanzaa has more “tradition” behind it than that.

    And I’m afraid that your Mr. Umunna (now there’s a proper English name, isn’t it?) is overselling the significance of this event. Frankly, this was the first year I’d even heard of it, and I don’t know of anyone who intentionally participated in the undoubtedly joyous festivities. It “has enjoyed considerable success in the US”? That’s certainly news to me.

    And if it’s actually true that we “spent £3.4bn* in small shops on the day this year”, in addition to the complete lack of context which Lynne already noted I would also point out that events of this nature generally do not increase aggregate sales, but merely shift their timing. The whole thing is a pompous, and pointless, fraud.

    * An interesting figure; I don’t generally carry pounds sterling around with me, and as far as I know none of my neighbors do, either.

  19. John Galt says:

    @*innocent face*:

    Since we were discussing the dubious suggestions put forward by a British MP, I think most people understood that I was discussing the state of the UK high street (although this may be reflected elsewhere).

    Certainly in mainland Europe, there seems to be a plethora of small shops which do very nicely and in Germany where I have spent a great deal of time the local high street seems more diverse than the UK.

    The specific reasons for this I cannot say, but certainly in the UK, the combination of high cost and competition from supermarkets and large corporates (electronics, DIY, etc.) have seen the death of the niche small shopkeeper. This is not a wholly bad thing as I believe that the consumer has benefited due to lower prices of large scale logistics, but it has left the high street looking somewhat ravaged.

  20. Lotus 51 says:

    I don’t think Chuka has thought this through properly. This would mean encouraging trading with the selfish, capitalist, poujadiste, bourgeoisie at the expense of the courageous, ethical and virtuous mutuals/partnerships like John Lewis and the Co-op.

  21. Andy says:

    I wonder how much of the death of the British high street can be laid at the door of local councils?
    Excessive rents,excessive red tape,extortionate parking costs,lousy public transport,feeble policing etc?

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