'You're putting food on our table': Why your festive shop should be local

Shopping local has never been so important - Archant says we need to use our indies or lose them. P

Shopping local has never been so important - Archant says we need to use our indies or lose them. Picture by: Sonya Duncan

The pound in your pocket will help put food on the table for families across Norfolk this Christmas if spent at an independent, business owners have said.

With just one weekend left until Christmas bosses of Norwich's small, family-run businesses have issued a plea to the public to think independent this year. 

This Saturday and Sunday will mark the second busiest weekend in the festive retail calendar - coming in only behind the Boxing Day sales according to public opinion research company ICM.

And according to research by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies for every £1 spent at an independent business 63p ends up back in the local economy compared to only 5p spent at a national or international retailer.

"When you spend with an independent the money you are spending is going to the staff who serve you, to the chef who cooks your meal, to the owner of the business," said Samia King, the owner of the Moorish Falafel Bar in Norwich's Lower Goat Lane. 

"It goes to their families for the Christmas dinners they'll put on the tables, the presents they'll buy for their children. 

"Your money has a real impact on people's lives when you spend with an independent as opposed to lining the pockets of a millionaire you'll never meet. 

Samia King, owner of Moorish Falafel Bar. Picture: Neil Perry

Samia King, owner of Moorish Falafel Bar. Picture: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

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"I can't put it more simply than that. This has been an really difficult year for a lot of businesses and I think we might lose some more independents in the coming months.

"This year I've had months where I've paid my staff instead of myself. For the first time in ten years I'm having to question whether I can afford to pay my staff a Christmas bonus. 

"Such a small change in habit can have a massive difference. Even if it's just buying a bag of coffee beans or a gift card for an independent restaurant over a chain - it makes a massive difference."

It is stark reminders of the real impact of consumer behaviour that led this newspaper to launch its Shop Local campaign. 

The campaign urges readers to spend their hard-earned cash with the businesses that need it most after a supremely difficult year. 

"Norwich is one of the best places in the country to go shopping, and that's because of our independents. We are lucky to have hugely supportive customers and we need them to keep our independent sector alive," Ms King added. 

Moorish Falafel Bar, Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: Neil Perry

Moorish Falafel Bar, Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

But not only does shopping local support your local economy it also has a wider environmental impact says Elaine Reilly, owner of the Sustainability Station in Exchange Street. 

"At smaller businesses we tend to shop with other small businesses. Whether it's for ourselves or for our suppliers we want to not only support our local economy but also reduce the air freight miles and the number of vans on the road," she said. 

The store, which opened in August and sells household items and accessories, aims to make sustainable living affordable for everyone. 

"I keep my prices as low as possible so that anyone can afford to make more affordable choices. If you look at the products I sell online they might be three times the price. 

"However I keep my prices low and squeeze the margins because it matters more to me that this is accessible to everyone than turning a massive profit. That's the difference between us and the chains."

Sustainability Station

Inside Sustainability Station in Exchange Street. - Credit: Sustainability Station

Stefan Gurney, executive director, Norwich Business Improvement District, added: “It’s the last weekend of shopping as our thoughts turn towards Christmas and it's a great chance for us to support Norwich and all the businesses that need our support during this festive season.

"There are so many amazing local shops in our city, so please spread the love.

"Ahead of any shopping plans its essential that we all remember to keep safety at the top of the Christmas list. It’s vital that we keep our distance and our patience and that we think - hands, face, space.

"The last weekend of shopping before Christmas is always busy, so why not think about shopping when it could be quieter? There are four more days after this weekend before Christmas, so hopefully we can all find a time that suits us all.

"It’s also worth getting gift idea inspiration. VisitNorwich.co.uk has an online directory of local businesses selling all manner of wonderful gifts as well as several blogs about unique and locally made and produced presents and where to find them."