- Milk, bread, papers, some groceries: local shop
- Other grocery shopping: local Coop, local shops in Lochmaddy and Balivanich, Tesco online grocery deliveries
- Spuds: Berneray grown
- Some other vegetables: grown myself
- Fresh fish: Dolly's fish van (every tuesday lunchtime, at my door)
- Eggs: local
- Wholefoods: Uist Wholefoods
- Cake and sandwiches: the very good cafe in Taigh Chearsabhagh
- Other cake: local fanatical bakers
- Scallops: out of the sea!
- Seriously good homemade Lemon curd: Nunton Steadings (also has interesting looking frozen local meat selection I must investigate more)
- Wine: Virgin Wines, Oddbins, Majestic Wines online deliveries (no am not alcoholic)
- Other: items brought back on return trips to the mainland
That list doesn't include places I've forgotten about, or meals out in several local places. Expanding the list to include non-consumables adds a lot of online shops we've used this year, including Marks and Spencer, Topshop, Next, John Lewis, Boots, Pet Planet (cat food and litter), Amazon, Game, Ebay, Toolstation, and several others. This list will inevitably widen over time.
For example, Ikea are gradually increasing the areas they deliver online orders to. This does not - yet - cover Glasgow. When it does, it should be possible to get Ikea to send furniture round to, say, the Hebrides Haulage depot in Glasgow. As with other bulky goods that they zoom up the Outer Hebrides, they will then deliver it to our door.
Each online shop has pluses and minuses. For example, Boots deliver for free when the order is over 40 pounds, and taking advantage of the various 3-for-2 offers (and getting the clubcard points) means that orders can be very good value for money. But the downside is that Boots orders often take between 1 and 2 weeks to arrive, so it's best not to wait until the last tube of toothpaste is nearly empty.
This spread of shopping sources seems to be more the rule than the exception. Many local people use an ever-shifting combination of local shops and online shops for their goods. For example, one resident of Berneray gets much of his fish and meat from several online shops including Manx Kippers, Donald Russell and Loch Fyne.
If there's an online shop that sells good value stuff and delivers here, someone will find it and word will get round. If one particular supplier messes up, word also gets around. Residents compare online shopping experiences; a small group of Berneray residents have worked out, in some detail, the best value places to buy cat litter and food online.
What does this mean? Five things:
- People here are astonishingly good at researching various options for acquiring goods, especially online. Never, ever, underestimate a Hebridean resident's abilities in finding a bargain.
- People here communicate voraciously; social networks (both in the real world sense and the Web 2.0 sense) are constantly active. Much is recommended and decided via "word of mouth" or email.
- We've got access to very nearly all the goods that people who live on the mainland have.
- "Local" is not enough for most residents. The four factors of quality, choice, convenience of shop, and overall price also matter.
- Without the Internet and deliveries, shopping would be a lot more restrictive in choice. Without the net, the Outer Hebrides would be for many people (incomers and people born here) a very unattractive place to live compared with, well, everywhere else. And would be rapidly heading to the same social status as St Kilda.
And yes, I did say Tesco online shopping for grocery deliveries. This came up at a community council meeting; some enquiries revealed that several residents of the Uists and Benbecula had been doing this for a while.
So I tried it, and a few nights ago was tucking into my favourite pizza, Sloppy Guiseppe, one of the Pizza Express range. Tesco sell them, so it was part of my online order which soon appeared at my door. Yum! (just wish they were a little bigger).
There's a widely-circulated myth that there are four areas of the UK not touched by Tesco, namely Harrogate, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and the Outer Hebrides. This is rubbish, as there isn't one in the Scilly Islands but there is a Tesco Express in Harrogate. Also, the myth is deflated by the growing number of Outer Hebrides residents doing their Tesco grocery shop online and, in a neat way, having it delivered to their door. That, and the implications of it, are in the second part of this posting.