Every year, a holiday ad soars above the rest. One particular local hardware store’s Christmas ad has struck a major chord the world over. It’s a true love letter to the importance of local retailers in our community, told through the lens of a family business: Hafod Hardware.
Created by co-owner, Thomas Lewis Jones, and a filmmaker friend, it stars Thomas’ two-year-old son, Arthur. It was filmed in Thomas’ parents’ hardware store where three generations come together to work (and play).
The video follows little Arthur as he wakes up and goes to work in Hafod Hardware. He pours his attention into sweeping floors, polishing the counters, stacking shelves, serving customers and decorating the Christmas window display.
The ad is in part about business, though it’s mostly about family, growing up in a store, the experiences that come with that, and personable customer service – all things that give local retailers the edge over online stores and big-boxes.
Retailers and consumers alike can take many important lessons from the Hafod Hardware video. Here are four of them.
Aim to be a conscious consumer
While technology is deeply embedded in our lives, there are times when it isn’t as necessary as it seems.
Often, it’s better to meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in months, rather than chatting with them on WhatsApp or social media. Likewise, you probably don’t really need to program Alexa to read you the news or turn off your bedroom lights.
The same echoes in retail: buying from a personable cashier instead of the self-service checkout offers two wildly different experiences. Especially if something goes wrong and the shrill cry of, “unexpected item in bagging area” follows you as you pack your items.
While convenience trumps all when shopping, the Hafod Hardware video reiterates the importance of the person or family behind the business.
Say, for example, that you’re looking to buy the latest best-seller. You could buy it online from a massive corporation, but chances are, your local bookshop has it.
For most consumers, nothing beats walking into a cozy bookstore, where you can browse through the welcoming shelves, take a look at staff recommendations and sit and read part of a chapter in undisturbed peace. The book doesn’t need the extra miles; it has already made the journey to the store.
The rise of conscious consumerism
Conscious consumerism means taking a step back and considering local retailers who aim to bring you goods they think will interest you, along with a service that aims to delight (most of the time).
Beck Paint and Hardware is a multi-generational hardware store based in Ohio which shares strong links with Hafod Hardware.
Amanda Plunkett has worked in the store since she was a child. Just like Arthur, she swept floors, wiped down shelves and played there. As an adult, she enjoyed a prosperous law career with the U.S. government before ultimately returning to the store to focus on raising her family.
The store affords her special freedom, particularly for how it allows her to spend time with her kids.
“I look at [my kids] now and think what a special brief moment in time this has been,” Amanda says. “I can work more someday if I chose to. But, I know my kids inside out. If I want to take a moment to sit on the floor and look at my baby’s toes – I can do that. Where else can you do that besides your family’s business? For any other job in the world, I wouldn’t change this.”
Many of Beck’s customers have been coming through the door for decades; a proof point for its place in the community. Of course, it works both ways: the community has given back too and the store has provided Amanda and her family with a good life. “It’s not much,” Amanda says, “but it’s provided us with such a good life.”
It’s Amanda and retailers like her who breathe life into communities – both bustling downtowns and smaller, tight-knit locales. As consumers, it’s important to consider the social and community function of our local retailers each time we purchase something. Ultimately, it’s about taking a step back and thinking about where and to who your money is going.
You might just miss the opportunity to receive a beautifully wrapped gift as the one Arthur makes in the video!
Local retailers help build social skills and authentic human connections
Charlie Chaplin once said: “We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity; more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”
It’s this humanity and sense of connection that thrives in local retail. For local people, it’s a meeting ground. For elderly people or those in rural communities, it’s a destination and a reason to get out and talk.
Technology can feel like a shield when it comes to authentic conversations – a change that is slowly starting to reverb into retail. Though retail, in part, is the perfect foil.
2019 saw the arrival of a handful of cashierless Amazon Go convenience stores, where no social interaction is required at all – almost an opposite experience to that of a local store like Hafod Hardware.
Human moments simply cannot be replicated online.
Suzanne and Wade Peterson are perfect examples. These ex-Silicon Valley dwellers gave up a too-busy life in tech to open Learning Express – Reno and focus on raising their family. The highlight of their day is when they make a kids’ eyes light up.
Once, a parent from a rural area drove hours to their store in Reno, Nevada, so their child could experience a toy store for the first time. He adored his toy, but equally the experience was priceless for everyone in the store.
Trade and commerce have always been a social activity; it’s why markets are still so popular. By selling and trading, humans have learned how to discuss, haggle, and solve disputes. Countless teenagers came of age in stores too, stacking shelves or serving customers in first jobs that give them many of the skills they carry through their lives.
Before their tech careers in Silicon Valley or their entrepreneurial days in Reno, both Suzanne and Wade worked in drugstores throughout college. They credit those days for much of their success.
“We’re successful because of those awesome basic building blocks,” Suzanne says. Their biggest takeaway is that “the customer is always right. We’ve carried that over into what we do today.”
Support families and communities by buying local
Hafod Hardware’s holiday video beautifully touches on the lifeblood that local retailers bring to their community – and the ongoing importance of supporting independent stores.
Speaking to the BBC, Thomas Lewis Jones said: “I understand Christmas can be a very expensive time for everyone and they need to save money where they can, but if they can afford to, just try and shop at your small independent shops and support us. It makes a big difference.”
The retailing business isn’t an easy path. Early starts, difficult customers, retaining good staff and pushing yourself to break-even are just the tip of the iceberg of what local retailers have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Local stores are so much more than places that sell stuff. They are places where families, friends and communities intersect. Their personalities, stories, and characters light up our streets – for Thomas Lewis Jones, and one day, for Arthur too.