woman using mobile phone in shopping mall

We’ve all been in a shiny shopping mall, perusing the store widows for Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton and thought, “ Where am I? I could be anywhere on earth”.

Or perhaps the thought strikes at the local supa centre where we know that the franchise outlets for Payless Shoes, Bakers Delight and Smiggle are exactly the same as the ones across town.

Then there’s the walk up the main street of a country centre looking for that specialty store run by the locals, only to find there’s just a boarded up window flanked by $2 shops.

Faced with relentless competition from the big players, rising rents and sky-high rates for just a few parking places, the local shopping strip is dying a painful death.

Do you have a thriving local shopping strip where you live? You’re lucky. Enjoy it while you can.

A recent article by columnist Janet Albrechsten in The Australian derided the idea of a suburban “village” in an article headlined “Leftist jargon is village idiocy”.

“Around where I live, there has been a recent campaign to “Save Bronte Village,” she wrote. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and I’ve never heard the old set of shops up the road from me be referred to as a village. It’s just your regular strip of shops.”

In what she says is a ploy by locals to block a new, bigger fruit and vegetable shop (it’s a lot, lot bigger than that), she said some lefty malcontents had stolen the word “village” and were using it to block progress.

female customer on local shop

Now, I have to agree that the word “village” doesn’t sit well in the Aussie landscape – conjuring, as it does, clock towers, church spires, green lawns and the like – but I’ll wager that most times the word “village” is used there’s a real estate agent involved. And not many of them are “lefties”.

Further to that, what is called “progress” very often isn’t.

So let’s all call it “down (or up) the shops” for the sake of argument and agree that there are fewer and fewer communities left that know the joy of strolling along a street where every shopkeeper knows your name.

I take my hat off to the small business owners – the butcher, the haberdasher, the jeweler, the shoe shop, the baker – who are still operating when everyone around them has gone broke. 

sweet-baked goods at a local bakery shop

These are the same people, I find, who will always donate a voucher or goods when you are having a charity night. They’re also ones who will give you a discount or a free little extra something in your shopping bag. These shops have also been found to play a vital role in the social life of older Australians.

I try to bring these independent shops my custom whenever I can. They’re worth their weight in gold. I also salute the communities that get together to support them to stay in business. The locals at Bronte have had a win in their campaign for “local shops for local people”, but it’s likely the developer will appeal.

Meanwhile, the fight against a McDonald’s outlet in Tecoma in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria has made national headlines.

So today, how about a shout out to your favourite shop keeper and that “village” or whatever you call it, that’s doing its best to hold on to its identity. 

And there you go: “identity” – that’s another lefty word for you, Janet.

Along with “cohesive society” and “the bonds of social solidarity” – but they were used in Tony Abbott’s first election speech yesterday.

Not by an old “lefty” like me, you will note.

Do you still have a ‘strip’ of local shops where you live?

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