With England under lockdown and rest of the UK facing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses need our support now more than ever.
For many, business booms at Christmas as consumers enjoy the festive season, buying gifts, enjoying family dinners at restaurants, catching up with friends over drinks and treating themselves to an afternoon at the salon ahead of their Christmas parties.
Whilst the government has extended its furlough scheme to help small businesses during this time, there are many other ways you can support independent brands now and always.
As non-essential shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and gyms shut their doors for the month ahead, here are seven ways you can help small businesses stay afloat and continue to support them beyond the UK restrictions.
This year, small businesses across the nation set up online shops to continue to serve customers throughout the UK’s first lockdown.
For Manchester-based couple Ben and Jamie, setting up a small online business has been their lifeline. The couple both lost work during the first UK lockdown in March, and decided to turn their love of affordable homeware into a business called Benji's.
What started as a hobby just months ago is now the pair’s only source of income and they stress just how important it is to seek out items from independent businesses.
✨ baby it’s blue ✨ (Well, turquoise* but that doesn’t have the same ring to it 😂) We’ve had a restock of our Tropical Leaf Ceramic Planters, and we love seeing them dotted around your homes! Pictured here is the planter in large. At 30cm in height, it’s ideal for looking after your bigger, stronger plant babies. 💕🏡 —— £12.95, LIVE now on website. 🔸TAP to be taken to product. 🔸picture by the lovely @hannahlvjones #homeware #accessories #housetohome #myhomeinspo #myhomereno #supportsmallbusinesses #supportlocal #supportdreams
A post shared by Benji’s Shop (@benjis_shop) on Oct 31, 2020 at 5:15am PDT
"If a shopper has a particular product in mind, just take the time to look into where sells it," Jamie said.
He added: "We've actually got a lot of people messaging us directly and comparing products that we sell with those listed on other retailers for a more expensive price. Now that they might have more time, consumers should take the time to see where else is stocking the products they're after, and see if they can support a small business."
The stock at Benji's wouldn’t look out of place in popular homeware stores and profit helps support the life and dream of a couple in Manchester who have lost work during the pandemic.
✨ sneak peak saturday ✨ Happy Saturday you amazing bunch of people! We’re spending this weekend sorting out the last few bits of our end of season SALE. At least 20% off over 30 products, until Sept. 30th. The sale is making way for... our new Autumn range! We’re SO excited to bring this to you. Our Mint throw is 100% cotton, and at over 150cm in height... it’s huge! We really can’t wait for you all to see what we’ve been working on. We’ll be bringing this to you very soon, so stay tuned. As always, if you have any questions you know we’re here. If you’d be interested in reserving one of these, get in touch. Ben & Jamie @ Benji’s. 💕🏡 #homeware #homeaccessories #housetohome #autumnwinterhome #homefurnishings #manchester #loveourhome #instahome #instalove
A post shared by Benji’s Shop (@benjis_shop) on Sep 26, 2020 at 2:53am PDT
When shopping online, do your research and see if you can get the item you’re looking for from a small or local business.
Reach out to your local stores
If your local small business doesn’t have a website, call them and ask if they're still able to sell via click & collect or delivery while restrictions are in place.
Charlotte, owner of lifestyle and gift shop Raffia based in Clitheroe, is one of the many local business owners around the country without an online store. During the first lockdown, Charlotte turned to Instagram to share pictures of her stock in an effort to drum up business.
She also received calls from local people hoping to purchase gifts and she was then able to send them images of what she had in stock and organise delivery of their purchases.
"The benefit of shopping small is the business owner is likely to get to know you, to know what you like and they can tailor what they suggest to match what they think you're looking for," Charlotte said.
Decisions, decisions... Oh, I know. I'll choose the closed toe because I've not had a pedicure since July. 🙄 #highmaintenance Slippers in store now. In a box. Because I'm still unpacking last week's deliveries! 🙈
A post shared by Raffia Lifestyle Store (@raffia_store) on Oct 20, 2020 at 9:16am PDT
"Sometimes bigger retailers are great, but the key is to try small first," Charlotte added: "If you genuinely can’t get it, which sometimes you can’t because at the end of the day we are small businesses and we can’t stock everything, then go to bigger retailers. As long as you’ve exhausted the small business element first."
Buy gift cards
An immediate way to support your favourite shop, your go-to nail salon or your local restaurant is to buy a gift card to use in the future. If you’re not in the market for any new products right now or are unable to use the business's service during lockdown, gift cards are a brilliant way to remain loyal to your local favourites, support a new small business you’ve recently discovered or purchase as a gift for a loved to use when business resumes as normal.
Use takeaway services
For Heath, owner of the award-winning pub Red Lion & Sun in North London, a takeaway service during the first UK lockdown was the only way he could keep his family-owned business in Highgate up and running.
Following the sudden announcement that pubs and restaurants would close in March, Heath and his team set about organising takeaway services. At the entrance of the pub, they placed a wooden table (which has now evolved into a takeaway shed), stocked it with wine bottles and began selling wine, beers and takeaway food from the front of the pub.
A bit of light in these dark days. We're pleased to announce that we will be open throughout lockdown V2 for food and drink takeaways and deliveries. You are able to purchase wines, beers, frozen margaritas and mulled wine from us, however, in line with the law, you must pre-order drinks (and food) from us via the phone and collect from our 'Bottle & Jug Dept' situated in our driveway...so no need to enter the pub. If you’re a pedestrian customer collecting, we will have a table out where you will collect your order with zero contact with staff. If you are in a car we will bring the food and drink to you, without need for you to leave the vehicle. Opening hours are in our our bio. We will be taking Sunday Roast orders from Saturday at noon. Thanks for your ongoing support. Heath & the team Orders: 02083401780 #sundayroasts #takeawaywines #beer
A post shared by The Red Lion and Sun (@theredlionandsun) on Nov 4, 2020 at 6:25am PST
"By the end of lockdown, we were selling 285 takeaway roast dinners on a Sunday," Heath said.
"Buy food and drink from your local and if you're looking for a bottle of wine for an evening at home, try your local first," Heath encouraged.
Spread the word
"When you support a small business, you're supporting someone's dream," said Frances, owner of candle company Flickerwick Limited.
Frances, who hand pours soy wax candles from her kitchen, believes even if you’re not in the position to shop with small businesses right now or use their service, you can still show your support by spreading the word.
Self care is a necessity, not a luxury. So make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, light your honeydew melon @flickerwicklimited candle and let all the stresses of the day drift away!! Photo by @waikiharnais Our customers in Ghana. @houseofmakeye @blossomwensday @p4pilatesgh cantonments have been fully stocked. In UK @njubien is a click away!! In 🇺🇸 @bykaiem has our gorgeous diffusers and candles for your everyday me time. www.flickerwicklimited.com code waiki10 for your discount at checkout. 😀😀
A post shared by Flickerwick (@flickerwicklimited) on Jun 25, 2020 at 2:33am PDT
"Follow small businesses on social media and comment on their posts with encouraging words. Share the business with your friends and followers, and if you see posts on social media asking for recommendations of places to shop, tag the small businesses you know,” Frances said.
"Any 'like', share or message on social media is all positive and it makes me feel like what I’m doing is worthwhile… it just motivates you to keep going," added Charlotte, owner of gift shop Raffia.
Shop virtual markets
You might miss out on your usual trip to some of Europe’s best Christmas markets this year, but luckily, like everything else, many markets are going virtual for 2020.
The Bath Christmas Market will be hosted online this year and shoppers can buy from local creatives via the website. A virtual Country Living Christmas Fair also kicks off on Friday 6 November, where you can shop from a virtual artisan pop-up market full of pre-approved small businesses showcasing their products.
Although this year’s event has sadly been cancelled, we are pleased to announce the launch of our Virtual Bath Christmas Market! 🎁 We’ve been busy working with local stallholders, letting you shop virtually - direct from the makers - and support small businesses, via our website. 🔎 Check out our list of wonderful creatives through the link in our bio, and keep an eye on our channels over the coming months as we share more about our adapted offering. 🌟 #bathchristmasmarket #bathatchristmas #visitbath #igersbath #lovebath #swisbest #instabritain #ukshots #ukpotd #christmasmarkets #christmasmarket #lovegreatbritain #visitengland
A post shared by Bath Christmas Market (@bathchristmasmarket) on Oct 1, 2020 at 5:56am PDT
Take online classes
Your local gym might be closed or the pottery class you signed up for might be cancelled, but if the businesses are offering online alternatives to their services, take them up on that and show your support.
Many gyms and yoga studios now offer online classes, with some even renting gym equipment to members in the local area for their at-home workouts.
Not only does it help support the businesses facing closures or restrictions this year, it will also add some fun into your day at home and can be a great gift for family or friends during these uncertain times.
Why should I shop small?
Shopping from small businesses in your area can help keep the local economy healthy and support someone’s livelihood, but it can also provide a much more personalised shopping experience at a super affordable price.
"Last month, I had a discount on the site and with every order I added a complimentary wax melt of another scent that complimented what the customer purchased," Flickerwick Limited founder, Frances told us: "You don’t always get this when you buy from bigger retailers, it's that extra personalised touch."
Sneak Peak!! We can wait to share what we have in this gorgeous box.. 🎉🎄🎄 🎁 🎁 Box 1 of 2... With kind of year, we have all had a little kindness and gratitude goes a long way!! Let the count down begin!! 🎄🎄🎁🎁 Handcrafted with 💕
A post shared by Flickerwick (@flickerwicklimited) on Oct 19, 2020 at 10:25am PDT
Many small businesses are also keen to hear suggestions from customers about what they’d like to see, and can often source goods for you.
"From the start, we've always said we want an open dialogue with our customers," said Ben from Benji's, "People getting in touch about what products they'd like us to stock really helps us in the long run."
"We're just two guys that will do anything we can to make people happy and want them to have a fun and accessible experience when shopping from our online store," Jamie added
"With small businesses, they will always be at the end of the phone or at the end of the website, they're there for people if they've got any questions and that's the most important thing".
As we head into the festive season, if you're buying gifts for loved ones this year do some research and see if a small or local business stocks what you're looking for. And remember, there are real people behind small businesses and they can sometimes face delivery delays, especially with the current restrictions in the UK. Give things a day or two longer than you normally would to arrive, it's sure to be worth the wait.
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