As we reach the inevitable steep curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners across the country are frantically searching for ways to keep profits flowing. With the majority of the British public social distancing and many already in self-isolation, shops, cafes. restaurants and other local businesses are already feeling the hit.
It’s no secret that our local high streets have been struggling in recent months. With consumers favouring the convenience of online shopping and opting to purchase mass-produced goods at low prices, independent shops are closing their doors at a worrying rate.
Skipton is a popular market town in North Yorkshire. Famed for it’s picturesque canal basin, impressive castle and award-winning market, it welcomes thousands upon thousands of tourists each year. The town also boasts an impressive array of independent shops, many of which rely heavily on the town’s regular influx of visitors. Many are used to adapting during the quieter seasons and, although profits tend to be lower off-peak, they manage to maintain a steady flow of income by marketing their businesses directly to a more local audience. During these worrying times, shop owners in Skipton are now faced with the prospect of having few to no customers over the next few months. With bills and rents still to pay and families of their own to consider, these people could potentially be amongst the worse affected during the coronavirus crisis.
Those who are able to adapt their business models are doing so immediately but, for some, there are few changes to be made and the impact could be devastating. The government has announced a number of measures being put into place to aid those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, but will this be enough to save our much-loved local independents?
Some local shops already have ecommerce websites in place and will be pushing their online purchasing options and adapting delivery methods accordingly. Popular independent shoe shop, eShoes, are offering free delivery to online customers and Chocolates & Truffles, who will undoubtedly be deeply concerned by the prospect of missing out on the usual Easter trade, are doing the same.
Owner Michelle Nye said: “Chocolates and truffles is offering free deliveries to customers within 10 miles of skipton. It’s only a few weeks until Easter and we make beautiful handmade Easter eggs. Customers can order directly online or if they are local, select the chocolate from the website and contact us via telephone. The shop will then deliver their purchases to them.”
The majority of Skipton shops are seeking other ways to continue trading as long as possible but with the wellbeing of their customers at the forefront of their minds. Not So Shabby, a relatively new opening, are offering free delivery on everything in store for orders over £20. If orders total less than that amount, they will deliver for a small fuel charge.
Dogsbody and Friends are adding additional deliveries to their weekly schedule to ensure local dog owners in isolation can still get much-needed food for their four-legged friends.
The Wright Wine Company are now offering free local delivery of their wines and spirits. They’re also teaming up with Walkers Bakers and Stanforth Butchers to deliver baked goods and fresh meat straight to doors. A wonderful example of how local businesses are coming together during these most difficult of times.
Some Skipton businesses are offering to post out gift vouchers so people can support local shops financially and choose items at a later date. The Geek Side is one such business offering to post out vouchers but they are also making them reedemable for a longer period of time. Discount Sports, who have had to cancel their upcoming first birthday event, are offering to post gift vouchers inside locally sourced gift cards – enabling customers to support two local businesses at once.
We know that these are difficult times and many are unable or reluctant to visit local shops. Those who are venturing out, are doing so to purchase essential items. Gifts, homewares and other non-essential goods aren’t priority purchases right now. However, with Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, Easter just a matter of weeks away and the immediate future being somewhat uncertain, there will no doubt be times when such purchases are required.
Before you head to the websites of major retailers, have a look to see what’s on offer locally. Check out the websites and social media pages of your local shops to see what alternatives they are offering during this crisis. It’s imperative that we support our local businesses as much as we can. If we don’t, how many will still be left once all this comes to an end?