Many of you know that i am closing my scrapbooking shop, after 4.5 years in the shop, and a good 5.5 years in the industry. This post is not about my feelings around this – i am not yet able to express those. I will blog about that when i am ready. But this post is related to that, and you will see why.
When i was younger, i used to love spending some time in shopping malls. Especially the malls that were not in my area. Every holiday saw some rainy days spent in a centre, browsing. I loved discovering little gift shops, and craft shops, and art shops. Small boutiques, where the owner was the sales assistant, and who could judge your size at a glance. Unique little coffee shops that each had their own speciality, and left you craving their incredible Bienenstich or homemade vegetable lasagne for months after you left the city. Hardware stores where the owner would spend time explaining to blonde housewives how to fix those pesky irritations themselves, which their accountant husbands could not. Bookshops that smelled of books and coffee, that had a cat in the corner and an owner who had read many of the books on the shelves. Shops where the owners were behind the counter every day, who knew their products and their customers, and who would go the extra mile to get you the item you need. Shops where you would walk out with so much more than just the product you came in for.
That is the kind of shop i had.
Unfortunately, these days the malls and shopping centres are owned by big investment companies. Nobody knows their landlords, because the landlord is an admin executive at a huge firm, who manages more than one mega-mall. And the rentals in these huge centres have become unaffordable for almost any tiny shop. As a result, the large franchises are the only ones who can afford those rents. And so we have come to a time where you can walk through Riverside Mall in Nelspruit and Cresta Centre in Randburg, or East Rand Mall in Boksburg and Shelly Centre near Margate, and the only difference is the arrangement of the shops. Because the actual shops are all the same: Woolworths, Edgars, Mugg and Bean, CNA, Mr Price. And the sales assistants know nothing about the products they sell, and they stand around bored and unmotivated, because they don’t care if there are enough sales to cover the rent. There is no more passion and inspiration, and service and personal attention. Originality and personality is frowned upon, so those once-off gems are gone. And forget about speaking to the owner, he is in some admin office somewhere, often even in another province.
Make no mistake; i have nothing against those malls and mega-retailers. I see that there is a place for them, and i know that they have become the norm because the recipe works. But it saddens me that those little owner-managed shops are finding it harder to survive. The ones that are left are often tucked away off the beaten tracks, in little shopping areas where the rent is cheaper.
My plea is that we support those little one-person businesses. Because they really, really do need your support. If you come out of the mall, and blink against the natural light, and find those little shops gone, you will be sad and you will miss them. But did you support them when they were still there?
When i close the doors of my shop forever in a few days time, i am not only closing the doors of a place where you can buy paper. You can buy that at many hardware stores and supermarkets and even flea markets, often for cheaper. I am closing the door to inspiration, and information about the crafts we love. I am closing the classes and the demonstrations and the community. And when you go to the large stationery retailer, and find a product you do not know how to use, the bored shop-assistant will not be able to help you. And then you will realise that our little shops did have some value. That cheaper can be good, but it comes without personal attention. That original and unique and handmade and once-off are gone.
do you agree? do you go to the mall every weekend, or are you always looking for a little shoppe to visit? let me know in the comments.Tweet