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Talking Shop: What if shopkeepers ruled the country?

Hilary Cookson, owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire

Hilary Cookson owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire

Hilary Cookson, owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire

After weeks of jockeying and parliamentary posturing that was in no way helpful for folk worrying about their outgoings, we now know the result of the election, with the Tories proving the polls wrong by winning a majority.

However, I wanted the Queen to suspend a general election this time on the grounds that not one of the parties was bringing enough to the table for progressive change - and for her to decree that we should stick with the devil we know while we edge towards recovery. 

Do the politicians remember that we as shopkeepers are trying to ply a trade throughout debates on the NHS and immigration? Whether a Tory or Ukip supporter, let’s hope the next months continue to bring the growth we need.

If I ruled the country I would pass a law that everyone had to go to their local high street on a set day and spend a set percentage of their disposable income in independent shops. 

I would pass another law that made discount periods run between July and the end of August and again on January 1. I would also ban Black Friday in the UK until Boxing Day.
I would then issue an edict that made charity shops pay full rates on the high street if they are selling brand new goods. This would be topped off with free car parking sites in towns with the upkeep paid from existing business rates.

I find it faintly ironic that the death of the high street (if indeed that’s what it is) has been heralded with such surprise when the love affair with out-of-town shopping centres with free parking took hold of our retail psyche in the 1990s. The public were lured into covered areas where the family could spend a whole Sunday together shopping. The prospect of trailing around a town centre became less attractive. 

The internet is, of course, its own phenomenon – and I won’t even try to control that. What I want us to do is remember that as shopkeepers we will always offer something that online doesn’t. We must strive to be resourceful and exciting and remember that the high street is full of expertise, advice and a real shopping experience.

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