Everywhere I look this days it seems I am being asked to "Shop Local." And I totally agree. Where possible we should all be doing our bit to support the local shopkeeper and keep our high street thriving.
But the challenge for local businesses isn't just to get customers into their shop, it's to get people out of their houses in the first place.
Let me give you a scenario of a typical day of Joe.
Joe is in his mid thirties, works from home, has 2.4 children and two pets.
After kissing his wife and children as they leave for work and school, Joe's day is now his own.
First off, he wants a Costa Coffee and to have a read of the paper. No longer does that necessitate a trip to the nearest high street. The Costa Coffee pod goes into his Tassimo coffee machine and the latest edition of the daily paper gets downloaded onto his iPad. And all while Joe is still in his pyjamas.
He then goes to the fully stocked fridge for some breakfast. Not fully stocked because he walked around Tesco on a busy Saturday afternoon, but because his weeks shopping was delivered by the local Tesco delivery van after ordering goods online the day before.
Joe looks at his watch, it's 9.30am and his first meeting is at 10am. He doesn't have to worry though, he isn't having to battle through traffic to reach his destination, his meeting is a video conference on Skype. Just a quick shower and shave and he is ready. And because he will be sat at his home office desk, he could even risk the weather man trick of a shirt and tie and pyjama bottoms, but then he is bound to have to get up for something.
Having finished the meeting, it's time for Joe to work through the other items on his things to do list. He needs to pay some bills, so logs on to his internet banking account and transfers the money as required. No more queues at the bank or post office for Joe, it's all done in seconds.
The car, that is getting more and more redundant, also needs attention. It needs two new tyres and a good clean. Sweet wrappers and muddy paw prints adorn the back seat. Not an issue, Kwik Fit Mobile will come out to change the tyres and a number of mobile valet companies will leave Joe with the equivalent of a new interior without the car leaving the drive.
Next job is Joe's dad's birthday. He treated him to a football match last month and wants to get the pictures from the day put into a collage and then into a frame. He also needs a card. Not an issue, Moonpig or Funky Pigeon will assist to design and deliver the card and the photographs can be e-mailed to any number photographic companies who will then post the pictures out to him.
Another stress for Joe is that the family are also looking to move house at the moment. Joe's wife has seen the perfect house and even went to view it while Joe was away last week. She is desperate for Joe to see it. The first job is to look at Right Move. All the details of the house are there, along with many photographs of the interior and exterior.
But what is the area like ? Joe visits Google Street View and surveys the local manor. He can virtually walk up and down the nearby streets to get a feel of the area. Also, Google Earth will give him a very good idea of the footprint of the house and the surrounding houses. Joe has managed to rule the house out from the comfort of his office chair.
Next job is to organise watching the match with the guys on Saturday, Not going to the stadium obviously, but watching the live stream on Sky Sports. No need to phone the guys though, he posts on Twitter and Facebook and they can confirm through there. Along with confirmations there will no doubt be paragraphs of witty banter.
He has already organised the catering, the Dominos Pizza app on his phone is poised and ready to go. There are a number of new take away online ordering apps available if somebody wants something different. There's always one who won't eat what everybody else is eating.
Time to get a move on, the kids will be home soon. Joe is aware he hasn't done any exercise yet today. The dog looks like he needs a walk, but then the kids could take him. The fresh air will do them good !
Joe has a cheeky half hour on the XBox. He's justifying it to himself by saying it's exercise. But at the speed he's moving, it's a gentle stroll. Especially as he's sat down !
Cousin Jack in America has also e-mailed Joe to catch up with him so he needs to reply. Cousin Jack normally sends out his yearly newsletter to let everyone know how well him and his family are doing. Such notices used to be called the "Boast in the Post." But the post has become somewhat of a novelty. Like dial up internet and corded telephones, you remember them fondly, but don't really see them anymore.
The door bell rings, it's the pharmacy delivery service delivering Joe's repeat prescription. The very helpful driver from the Chemist has got used to the times Joe is at home so he never missed the delivery.
Joe also needs a haircut. Thankfully, Joe shaves his head and his wife purchased some clippers so that she can cut his hair at home. He could do it himself, but it seems like a lot of effort.
He doesn't know where he would be without his wife. He is very content with his family and nothing makes him happier than sitting around his table of an evening and watching his kids playing joyfully on their Nexus's while his wife sits on the laptop buying the latest bargains off of eBay.
Imagine starting the whole dating thing again. Those online profiles can be a nightmare to fill out !
I know these scenarios are very extreme but this is the way the world is going at the moment. Need an album, download it on iTunes. Want a new book, download it on your Kindle.
So saying Shop Local is all very well, but what you have to offer needs to be so attractive that it drags people away from their homes and into your establishments. You need to be asking yourself:
What am I offering that's different to what's available on the internet ?
Can I diversify my business to meet the needs of the every changing customer requirements? Do I need to deliver ? Do I need an e-commerce site ? Are there other outlets for my product ? Could I place my products within another retailer ?
Where is the customer buying my product from currently and what do I need to do to get them to change?
As a local business, you need to constantly evaluate your current business and the direction it is taking. Successful business constantly change and adapt to the needs of the customer and the market.
"Shop Local" is a fantastic initiative, but just saying "Shop Local" isn't enough, people need a reason to shop local.
And as for Joe, it's just a good job he has toothache. Otherwise he might never have got out !