Small Businesses Or Superstore Monopolies: Where Should We Spend Our Money?

Every day as a consumer you make active decisions about where to spend your money, perhaps without realising the consequences of each purchase. A superstore monopoly may often provide convenience and lower prices but it is important to support our small businesses in Oxford. 

Places are characterised by their local shops and attractions, and Oxford has many small businesses that are loved by locals, or hidden gems that require your support more than ever after COVID. I am sure you will agree that it is much more pleasurable and arguably more ethical to buy your Christmas presents and everyday items from lovely little local shops rather than Amazon!

Image credit: Freepik

Some consumers may value cost and economic effect over ethics, however small and medium enterprises account for of employment in the UK and play a large part in the local economy. They also respond to the needs of the local community. As illustrated by the high amounts of international local stores in Cowley, which is one of the most diverse areas in Oxford offering everything from durian fruit to Polish food. 

Due to COVID-19 it is especially important to support local businesses, as they are and were more vulnerable to the repercussions of the lockdowns and other economic fluctuations. Smaller stores are often run by people who are passionate about what they do or sell, whether it be artisan bread or Lewis Carroll paraphernalia. 

Having hopefully convinced you of the benefit of shopping from local small businesses, here are a variety of my favourites:


On St Michaels Street sits a little shop with a lot of character, mainly selling second hand books, first edition books, vintage comics and other unique items. Run by a couple for over 45 years, this hidden gem is an excellent small business alternative for an adventurous reader. Deborah Siepmann left a review on google saying it `seems to embody William Morris’ golden rule, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” which perfectly encapsulates this little shop. 

Arcadia store front. An Oxford small business. Shopping responsibly.

Silvester’s Stores 

Located on Magdalen Road, this Alladin’s cave has everything you could possibly need regarding hardware and much more. The owner is always up for a chat and knows the answer to any question you may have. One reviewer said ‘if Stuart doesn’t have it – you don’t need it!’. It is a traditional store which opened in 1910 and was passed through generations. However, Silvesters is likely to close next March due to the low traffic neighbourhood plans affecting access to his store and the effects of the pandemic. 

Reign Vintage

Selling vintage clothing for both men and women, this store has a range of beautiful pieces. It is a must see place for those interested in fashion through the ages and bespoke pieces. Slightly pricier than your average second hand buy but all items are well sourced and not something you would find on the high street. 

Coba Bubble Tea

A cosy location in the Covered Market, with its walls covered by post-it notes left by customers and little board games available for customer use. If you look around, I am sure there is still a somewhat artistically challenged drawing of my dog on a post-it note. They have a variety of flavours, I would highly recommend honey melon. 


Situated down the Iffley Road, this cafe has the best cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted. The interior feels like a home with cosy sofas, a bright conservatory area and a little garden section with a guest house above. They sell freshly baked pastries and bread and other local food as well as excellent breakfasts. They sell seasonal food and dishes, and have lovely, friendly staff. Located five minutes from The Kidneys nature reserve and the Thames Path this is a perfect end of walk coffee stop. 

If you would like to explore shopping at small businesses in Oxford more, I would highly recommend paying a visit to the Covered Market and the markets at Gloucester Green. The Covered Market has a variety of stores from a butcher, green grocer, an excellent bubble tea shop, a leather shop and much more. Gloucester Green hosts a variety of stores on Wednesdays to Saturdays from jewellery stores to map stores. The best part of Gloucester Green has to be the incredible food. A visit here guarantees a full stomach and an empty wallet.