Saying "Goodbye" to Tesco, Costa Coffee, Pets At Home, Pizza Express and Primark

I should add... among others. 

After lengthy discussions on the topic with friends and boyfriend alike, and a long running passion for small, independent shops, restaurants and craftspeople, I have pledged to cut out the use of large chain stores and big business corporations unless I am unable to find an alternative.

Previously I would always use supermarkets out of habit. I live within a 5 minute walk of a Tesco store, I live in an area where every single major supermarket, from Lidl to Waitrose is accounted for within a relatively small area. There are also 4 Argos stores within a 10-15 minute drive. There's a new Costa coffee opening in Broadstairs which will join the two Costa Coffee's already open at Westwood Cross Shopping Centre (within a 3 minute walk of one another - I timed it!), and the one in Margate, a 10 minute drive away. The Westwood Cross site in fact gives way to the third busiest Tesco store in the world, as well as an "opening Winter 2014" Sainsbury's MEGA store, larger than Luxembourg. That's not to mention an enormous two-story Primark (big sister to Margate's sea front Primark store just down the road), Mark's and Spencer and Debenhams staring one another down over the top of Next's head, and the usual suspects, Topshop, New Look, River Island, H&M, T K Maxx and Boots vying for attention in between. On top of that you've got a Smyths Toy Superstore, a giant Mama's and Papa's outlet, Pet's at Home, Matalan, B&M, Dunelm Mill, The Range, a Waterstones large enough to accommodate a Cafe Nero and every single pound shop going. This is all pretty much "on my doorstep."

However, there are also a lot of wonderful, independent stores right under my nose. The best chip shop chips in the country for a start, as well as award winning greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, bakers, sweet shops, clothing stores, cafes, restaurants and coffee houses, homewares boutiques, hardware shops, gift outlets and shoe shops. 

In fact, as an area recognised for devastating levels of deprivation, and a high number of families living on, or below, the poverty line, the Isle of Thanet is very well served in terms of retail outlets! Some of my favourite shops on the island include Arrowsmiths in Broadstairs, who sell everything from pretty stationery to handmade clothing, cards, candles and jewellery, Madam Popoff's in Margate Old Town which is one of the best stocked vintage clothing shops I've ever set foot in, and Arch 15, a weird mixture of junk shop, thrift store, house clearance outlet and Aladdin's cave, all housed within an arch under the road in Ramsgate. 

So, a life without large chain stores shouldn't be too much of a task. The only difficulties that I have come up against so far have been finding somewhere to buy non-dairy milk replacements. I drink soya milk in my tea, and usually use oat milk to make porridge in the morning, and the only place that I appear to be able to buy both is at Tesco. I also find it difficult to buy cruelty-free household cleaning products with independent retailers, I tend to use either Ecover or Method products, both of which are only stocked locally in either Waitrose or Sainsburys. 

I do have to prioritise my ethics in some cases, and where appropriate I would rather by cruelty-free products from a large chain, than products that exist as a result of animal cruelty, or are tested on animals, from an independent retailer. As such I'll still use chain stores to buy cosmetics and household cleaning products where there are no other alternatives. For example, I still intend to buy cosmetics from Lush. 

Otherwise though (and I will work on finding solutions to the above), here are the outlets I'll be using for most purchases:
Fruit and Vegetables: I already receive a weekly veggie box from a local distributor, Nethergong Nurseries, who source vegetables from farmers within a 20 mile radius of their site. To top this up I'll be using greengrocers. 
Meat: I don't eat a lot of meat these days, but when I do, I'll be buying a majority directly from farmers at local farmer's markets (there's one every other weekend nearby). If I need more than I can get hold of at the markets I'll use local butchers. 
Fish: I'll use local fishmongers and fish markets.
Kitchen cupboard stocking: For the most part I'll use the two shops on each corner of my road, one is an Eastern European mini-mart and the other an Asian mini-mart, both family run. They stock pretty much everything. 

Flowers: I'll buy directly from growers where possible at farmer's markets and farm shops but also use local florists.
Clothes: I'll only buy second hand clothing from vintage and charity shops and avoid all High Street chain stores. The only exception to this rule will be to buy underwear, which I'll try to buy online from independent retailers where no local shops exist. 
Books: For the most part I use the library for reading material, but I'll also be using second hand book stores and Ebay for specific titles. 
Cosmetics: I'll buy cruelty-free cosmetics from Lush and smaller online retailers such as Cute Cosmetics
Household cleaning products: I'm going to experiment with making my own household cleaning products, but will continue to buy brands such as Ecover and Method, and where I can't buy these from independent retailers I'll have to visit the chains. 
Coffee Shops: I won't be visiting Costa, Starbs, Nero etc. and will only be visiting independent coffee shops. Proper Coffee in Margate serve by far the greatest coffee known to man anyway. 
Eating Out: No more chains, I'll only be eating in independent restaurants UNLESS I'm invited out by someone; if a friend has chosen to celebrate their birthday in Pizza Express for example, I'm not going to flat out refuse to attend!
Take Away: Not that I'm a big take away eater these days, but I'll only be using independent takeaways and no Dominos or similar. 
Cinema: Independent cinemas only, no Odeon, CineWorld, Vue etc.
Toys: Independent toy shops only, no Toys'R'Us, Smyths, Argos etc.
Furniture and Homewares: Independent and second hand stores only, as well as Ebay, Gumtree and Freecycle. 
Pet Stuff: No more Pets At Home, or, as has just opened around the corner from me, "Pet Hut" (it's basically the Primark of the chain store pet shop world!). I have an independent pet shop on my High Street that will be getting all of my business. 
Kitchen gadgets and the like: We have several hardware shops that stock everything from nails and screws to place mats and kettles, I'll be using these where I need to, also for light bulbs, batteries and other such stuff. 
It's a common misconception that shopping with independent retailers rather than supermarkets and larger chain stores is more expensive or more time consuming; the reality is that supermarkets are more likely to be carefully laid out to encourage you to spend more money than you intend, meaning that you're more likely to buy things you don't need when you shop in larger stores. The desire to browse at length (especially in larger supermarkets that also have multiple departments including clothing and homewares) also means you're more likely to stay in the supermarket longer than you expect. 
Shopping with independent retailers not only means that you're supporting small businesses rather than pumping money in to huge business, but you'll also meet more people and enjoy genuine human interactions, have access to FAR superior quality products, and actually enjoy the process of buying goods, rather than treating it as a soul-sapping necessity. 

N.B - I will use chains when they're free, i.e when I have vouchers or have been invited on a freebie, on these occasions the big business isn't benefiting from my spending so - hurrah! At the moment, for example, I do have a Costa Giftcard, which I'll leave in my purse and use on coffees when I fancy one.
Do you make an effort to "shop local"? I'd love to hear your tips for cutting out the chain stores and spending money with independent businesses.


  1. Sounds like a good plan. For pet stuff, I would also recommend animal kingdom on north down road. They are super nice and do home deliveries too. Closer to your house, walking distance! :)

  2. I try my hardest to only shop in smaller local shops - and it works rather easily for food. I'm not sure iCould go the whole hog though. I like the odd cinema trip! Good luck on your journey, its certainly an admirable one :) x