I forgot last week when I wrote my post “the electronic village shop – enhancing local community through global network” that Fiona had mentioned a blog, Silversprite, from the Outer Hebrides that mentioned the flip side of this; in a post “Tesco comes to the Outer Hebrides“, he mentions the potential conflicts between Tesco online and village shops. It is interesting that Tesco does not itself deliver direct, but you can give a local delivery firm as your drop off point and they do the last leg of the delivery … of course this delivery point could be the local shop!
I also remembered after that some years ago (2002) I had an email enquiry from someone who had found a reference to the electronic village shop in one of my talks. He was wondering how to revitalise his own village shop which was about to close and asked if I had any advice. The following is edited version of my reply where I pondered on what was possible as a single shop without buy-in from one of the big franchise chains:
In the absence of support infrastructure – it may be that and electronic village shop can still make a business using existing non-dedicated online sources:
- micro-cyber-cafe – granny reads her email when she picks up her pension or even shopkeeper prints out email in large print for granny and ‘telegram style’ types in replies. Also focus on NHS direct, printing out online government forms (e.g. tax return pages!) in general, directing and helping customers to the more practical aspects of online material
- value added internet sales – customer wants food/books/clothes etc. shopkeeper knows way around the best sites (best for delivering to UK), helps customer find the right things, may seek out best prices, manage credit card payment for cash customers or has suitable accounts with pay pal etc. and adds a 10% commission for this service and (where appropriate) being delivery address
- and still has some cans of beans and milk behind the counter!
N.B. This would be better if the relevant suppliers had dedicated programmes as the adding of commission etc could be bundled into the price and it would be easier to manage returns etc.
Charging a surcharge (say 10%) would still be cheaper than most village shops sell goods, but be more explicit. It would be less than the normal markup, but would involve no stock, wider range and hopefully larger volume of sales.
In the future, video/DVDs will be sold by streaming the content to shops – this will make it possible for every shop to be able to sell any DVD with the only stock being blank DVDs and a DVD writer!! But that is again looking ahead.
Whether this is sufficient to make a suitable business model … when added of course to normal village shop activities … I don’t know. The cost is a suitable reasonably high bandwidth internet connection (which may be hard in rural areas) and computer.
… [I suggested that there could be] … a sort of “DIY electronic village shop kit” – fleshing out the above with suitable internet suppliers, information on setting up paypal and related micropayment accounts etc. Possibly some sort of dedicated eVS portal site with links to relevant shops and sources … perhaps granny-mail (g-mail?).