Is choice always a good thing? More shops, more menu options, more colours of shoes…

Handling choice is something everyone encounters now. The luxury of choice is a value, a priority, a right. Or is it?

…increase in choice and change leads to a decrease in commitment and continuity — to everyone and everything. Thus obligation melts into option and giveness into choice. But other effects are terribly obvious — above all the way in which choice and change lead quickly to a sense of fragmentation, saturation and overload. In the modern world there are simply too many choices, too many people to relate to, too much to do, too much to see, too much to read, too much to catch up with and follow, too much to buy. [Os Guinness | The Call | p.165–166]

People like to blame the Internet when talking about declining retail in our towns. It might well be cheaper and easier but, at Ballymena Today we believe the array of options you and I are now exposed to is a far greater issue than price and delivery options.

Why would you go to the shop around the corner and choose from their small range of products when you can buy everything on the Internet without even having to put your shoes on. Why oh why!! And if the black Nikes are heavily discounted in town but you want the orange ones then you will log on, click buy and wait by the window for your delivery. That’s choice.

Small retailers often react to this epidemic by attempting to stock a wider range of products, as well as trying to keep their prices competitive. More choice on the Internet than any retailer could ever compete with means, that this cycle goes around and around and is tiresome at best. Is this dizzying juggling act why you got into business? We doubt it!

We are not handling choice well

You and I – the consumers – are destroying small businesses in our towns. In fact, we have already done incredible damage. We all have to accept responsibility.

More choice does not fix our problem. Bigger discounts do not fix the problem.

Pointing at shops and claiming they don’t have enough choice, might be more about your inability to be content than their inability to stock a wide range of products. This is what the luxury of choice does.

A new way

We began writing about local businesses and organisations on Ballymena Today because nobody else was. It was a new way to tell a story for our town, even though blogging was by no means new. It wasn’t a new idea but it was a new way.

Ballymena has to start handling choice in a new way. You and I have to start handling choice in a new way.

What if our local community was a priority for us. What if being a good citizen was a priority for us. What if the wellbeing and betterment of the businesses and their owners and staff in our town was a priority for us.

What if we began handling choice in a new way and actually made these good and vital areas of life more of a priority instead of just paying lip service to them. What if…

It won’t happen overnight. It won’t be fixed by a hand-out, a marketing campaign, a discount day or a few punchy blog posts and conversations.

Ballymena needs lots of new ways. Handling choice in a new way would be a good place for us all to start.