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Use it or lose it......a true story.

There are lots of tag lines associated with supporting small business. #shopsmall #shoplocal #indiebiz #smallbizuk #thinkbigshopsmall and of course #useitorloseit.

Over the last few weeks several customers have popped in looking for products or brands we have not stocked for years.

"Where have you moved the Lilys Kitchen to?".

Then the next bit is slightly awkward and embarrassing.

"Oh I'm sorry we don't sell Lilys Kitchen any more" and the response you dread "But I always buy it here!". We then go on to explain that we stopped selling it in 2018, so now we know how long it is since you last shopped with us, and even worse, you know that we know how long its been since we last saw you. Then we get 'the sigh and walk out' while muttering something about Pets At Home under their facemask!

So heres why its really important to keep buying the products you love from the small local shops in your community.

I will use Lilys Kitchen as an example but over the last 6 years many brands* have gone or are going the same way.

We started selling Lilys Kitchen in 2014, a popular brand that was very much in demand. We were getting weekly deliveries and selling it as quickly as it was put on the shelf. As the brand grew we brought in the full product range of wet food, dry food, treats and the lovely Christmas range. In late 2014 Lilys Kitchen expanded their business and started supplying Tesco, we lost a few customers but still sold enough to justify keeping the brand in stock. Lilys Kitchen remained a popular brand with a customer loyalty scheme, then in early 2018 they announced they would be selling an extended range in Tesco and launching the brand in Morrisons, Sainsburys and the big one was Pets At Home.

Almost overnight our once loyal Lilys Kitchen customers disappeared. Weekly stock orders, turned into monthly stock orders, then 3 monthly stock orders and eventually in December 2018 we took the decision to stop selling the brand. Merchandising it took up alot of space and we were not able to meet minimum orders to replenish the stock on a regular basis.

Our sales had declined so far that a brand that once made up 4% of our shop turnover was no longer worth stocking.

So if you stop buying a brand or using a shop or service, there's often no point in them continuing to stock that brand or provide that service. When you return to the small business years later please don't be angry or complain that its no longer available. Don't try to threaten them by saying you will have to go to a competitor to buy it, as you have clearly been going elsewhere anyway! Your loyalty to that small shop could have made the difference between stocking or not stocking a brand or product. Your regular custom could even make the difference between a business surviving or closing down. We didn't stop selling it just to annoy you, we stopped selling it because YOU stopped buying it.

So when a small business quotes #useitorloseit its not fake news they really mean it!

*other brands we have lost due to downturns in sales have been Arden Grange, Harringtons, Royal Canin, Edgard & Cooper, Webbox, Billy & Margot, and James Wellbeloved. Current brands at risk are Orijen and Acana.

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