Anyone can have a good idea…
But making it happen takes a special kind of person. Robert Schmitz is one of these people. This 27-year old boy from the bush may just be Australia’s new Mark Zuckerberg. He has created a website that is set to change the future for local shops and aims to retain human experience in a world that seeks convenience.
Inspiring and highly intelligent, Ponderings had to intverview him. My Local Shopsnot only presents local stores on their own online shopping platform, but the quirky high end market atmosphere is disruptive and revolutionary. If he is to have his way, the haunting sound of small town shop closing will be a thing of the past. Tech + Heart has arrived in Australia and the gutsy move has us truly captivated.
Retail industry futurist, Doug Stephens, predicts that within 15 years, e-commerce will overtake conventional retail sales.
The more we buy online the closer shops come to extinction.
A study conducted by Roy Morgan found that Australians spent a whopping $41.3 billion on online shopping last year. This is a major concern. Not only are local shops vital for employment and our cities economies. Real-life-shopping is a meditative, social, human experience that awakens the senses. You get to feel the plush pillow, smell the candle, listen to the quality of sound playing through the Harvey Norman headphones. You’re actually required to interact with people! Buying off Amazon is convenient but doesn’t support the local shops that need it.
Schmitz has created the website with the latest tech and algorithms- allowing you to enjoy the time-saving convenience of shopping from the comfort of your home, while still supporting local shops and getting to know your community.
At just 21 years old you became the youngest councillor in Australian politics. What was your motivation behind this?
I thought, instead of moving from my country town, Whyalla, I would find a way to make a positive change myself so that I didn’t have to move.
Now you’ve left politics to pursue My Local Shops; a platform that allows customers to browse and purchase products from stores in their location. How does it work?
The website allows you to type in your location. Then any store in that region that is on My Local Shops will appear with all the stock they currently have in store. This way, if you need something that day, you can find what store has the product you want and order it online. Then you can head straight to the store and pick it up that day, rather than waiting days to receive it.
What are the benefits of using My Local Shops?
For me, it’s a lot of seeing and getting a taste for what’s out there before even leaving your doorstep. Amazon and all these other platforms are convenient, but they’re just not supporting local stores, and they are the ones that need it the most. Browsing on My Local Shops also means you might come across a shop you didn’t know existed.
When did you get the idea?
The idea really came together last June and was launched in January, so it’s all happened really fast.
Who can access My Local Shops?
It’s currently being trialled in Whyalla. However, even though it’s only meant to be accessible there, we’ve already had someone purchase a 3.75L cactus drink dispenser from QLD. Due to a glitch in the system, a woman has been able to click on the direct link to My Local Shops and purchase the product from Whyalla, while living in QLD. So now she’s waiting in QLD to have this fantastic party with her cactus dispenser!
What will be the next step?
Well, I was born and bred in Whyalla, so naturally, I wanted it to start there, but it isn’t a hustling bustling shopping community. The Geelong region is geographically ideal with the surf coast and Bellarine Peninsula so close. Ideally, it will expand nationwide, but this comes down to local retailers. E-commerce giants are going to continue to grow and take over bridge and water retail. If retailers accept that they need to be online, we can work together and stop this from happening. How big it gets will also depend on consumers. There needs to be a collective thought that supporting local shops will directly affect your life and your children’s future. It’s not just a ripple in a pond if we all do it!
What is your advice to anyone with an idea?
Don’t procrastinate, action it immediately! Boil it down to its simplest, raw, form, and then make it happen. You’ll never be proud of your very first addition, there’ll always be changes to be made, but I would try a little less for perfection, and more for action to begin with.
Robert Schmitz works with the community anyway he can. He was elected to the City Council of his hometown Whyalla at just 21 years old, making him the youngest Australian councillor ever. 5 years later, the talented tradie, left politics to pursue his next endeavour, e-commerce website My Local Shops.