For thirty years Michelle has sold local people greetings cards from her shop Celebrations in Lees village centre near Oldham. It was the anniversary of her launching the shop last week. The shop is successful, by Michelle's standards at any rate - she never wanted to be rich, just make a living. On the day of the shop's anniversary she was surprised how many people wanted to wish her well and say thank you for being a witness to and, in a small way, a participant in the events of their lives for thirty years.
Michelle's shop is a model of what local shopping means, and perhaps gives us a clue about what things might convince people to spend their money locally with small retailers and producers.
So what is it that made us want to wish Michelle well and makes us choose to spend our money at Celebrations, rather than choose a greetings card online, or at a supermarket where it might well be cheaper?
If you spend a moment browsing the aisles of cards you often overhear the conversations that, I think, demonstrate the added value that Michelle gives to her customers. She has empathy in bucket loads: I have heard her sensitively help someone who is clearly at a loss to choose a card for a bereaved friend; I have seen her be giddily excited with someone on the birth of their first grandchild, and I have seen her guide (usually) a man to choose a card for his partner with sensitivity and tact.
You don't get that in Tesco (other soulless retailers are available for you to avoid).
The big retailers bang on about value, but value brands usually mean cheap. They are missing the point by a mile but are winning the battle to convince consumers that the only value in their shopping experience is the cost of the products they purchase.
Perhaps when we think about the next marketing move for small retailers we should think about promoting the real value in shopping locally. The value gained from a relationship with someone that understands the product and understands how the retailer can add value to that product (like Michelle with her empathy or your local food producer/retailer with their knowledge and skill that ensures you get value in your food).
In the meantime here's to Michelle and her thirty years of greetings cards that have seen us through the ages of our sons when you got badges on the front of cards, through our parents big birthdays, our bereavements and our births.