You can't have failed to notice the boarded-up shop fronts that serve as a stark reminder of the difficulties faced by high street retailers at the moment. This is a problem affecting the whole country; visit Royal Tunbridge Wells and you will see lines of empty stores in the centre of the town. Trust me, it's a talking point with the locals.
So why don't we spend money with our local independent retailers? Why do we insist on hitting Debenhams for our clothes, Sainsbury's for our food and B&Q for our homeware or furniture? We all know the dire situation that independent business owners face yet we do nothing. Does it come down to price? Yes, maybe it does in some cases, but I think there's more to it than that.
Humans judge people in the first few seconds of meeting them. Ex-dragon James Caan said in his biography that he clocks a person's shoes as soon as they walk in for an interview, he believes it tells him something significant about their personality and that he is proved right 90 per cent of the time. If we judge humans in this way, why not businesses?
In my opinion it's about the psychology of shopping. We walk in, we look around and if we don't like what we see we often walk right back out. The stock may be fine, it may be cheaper than the superstore next door, but if the place looks shoddy it risks losing our custom.
Then there's the payment conundrum. We've all been in the situation where a small retailer doesn't take card or has a minimum card spend limit - this results in us either going elsewhere to make a purchase or having to buy more than we need just to get what we actually want. It's a frustrating experience and one which consumers report puts them off returning to the shop. I know that a lot of businesses feel like they can't afford payment technology but there are always options available and it is the small details like this that converts shoppers into loyal customers.
Large stores also place a lot of emphasis on the psychology of shopping. There's the baking bread trick - when they pump the smell into the shop to catch the attention of hungry customers - and the triangular shelf stacking technique - where the most expensive items are placed in line of sight and the cheapest are hidden on the bottom level. Everything, from the lighting and temperature of large shops and the number of aisles is carefully planned.
As much as I'd like to say that I'm not taken in by the hocus pocus of Waitrose and that I am happy at my local cash-only greengrocer, I can't, I'd be lying. But I want to; I really want to spend my money there because I recognise the importance of shops like this to our economy - after all, at the start of last year SMEs accounted for 99.9 per cent of private sector businesses in the UK. All I need, and all I believe any of us need, is to see the owners of the small shops taking their customers' shopping experiences seriously. If they accept my cards, clear away the clutter, present me with a customer loyalty scheme, and then complement those factors with the outstanding customer service UK SMEs are famous for offering, then I'm theirs, loyally and forever, I promise.