Let’s Shop Local and bootstrap our economy

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

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

Independent businesses across the city will go bust without a bumper Christmas, new research has shown.

A survey of more than 250 firms found that coronavirus restrictions and consumer confidence have hit coffers hard.

The poll was commissioned by the Evening News to launch the Shop Local campaign.

Shop Local is a use-it-or-lose-it plea to shoppers to consider independent traders and businesses this Christmas and beyond in a bid to bolster our beloved high street and spark a wave of online spending.

Keeping money in Norwich is vital as the economy splutters in the wake of the pandemic. 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.

The results of the survey are stark:

• 79pc of our independents are reliant on a good Christmas trading period. Only 8pc of businesses surveyed felt they in no way were banking on a good festive peak

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• Just 33pc of businesses are confident they will not make any redundancies between now and March 2021. Even then, the vast majority have either already made redundancies, or are run by a single person so cannot lose any more

• 40pc of our businesses have no online presence whatsoever – be it on Facebook, a website or otherwise.

Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research which is based in Norwich’s Rose Lane, said: “Shopping local means money is kept in the regional economy – supporting jobs and the entire supply chain. It is even more important to do so in areas like East Anglia because although we have well-established brands they don’t see the same government spend that areas like the south east do.

“It also doesn’t have the cheaper rates and suppliers you get up north. It rather supports the feeling that if no one else is going to support us we need to do it ourselves and bootstrap our own economy. People making a move to shop locally can make a tangible difference to businesses and jobs being saved.

“We have found that shoppers have migrated somewhat to independents during lockdown to find the goods they need. The problem is the independents know they have always been there so it’s a case of online presence and increased visibility to make their presence known.”

Richard Porritt, Norwich Evening News business and politics editor, said: “The pound in our pocket has never been more valuable. The independent businesses we talk to day in, day out, have made us well aware of how tightly they were squeezed in the pandemic and they have never needed our support more.

“Our SMEs do not have deep pockets to fall back on – many of them don’t know what will happen next month let alone next year. And yet so many of them are our favourite restaurants, shops and suppliers.

“We want to throw our support behind this engine of our regional economy – and hope our readers will join us in this endeavour.”

And the campaign was welcomed by the Federation for Small Businesses. Andrew Mower, development manager for East Anglia, said: “This campaign comes at a vital time for our region’s fantastic small firms, who have faced unprecedented challenges but have continued to demonstrate their importance to our communities.

“If we want to continue to enjoy the unique products and services that local businesses provide then now is the time for the public and decision-makers to support them in any way possible.

“Shopping local, ensuring that our high streets and historic town centres are thriving, will play a key role in the economic recovery in the months ahead.”

The campaign, which has been supported by the Norwich and Great Yarmouth BIDs has also received backing from the county’s MPs.

Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, said: “We need our local shops more than ever – and they need us. Local trade means local jobs. I hope many people in Norwich can shop locally through the autumn and in the run up to Christmas, to support local prosperity.” Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, added: “Buying local is always a good and important thing to do. It helps protect and boost our local economy because shopping at a locally owned small business means that a far greater proportion of what you spend and business profits stay in the locally economy. The environment benefits too from shorter journeys made with more on foot and by bike. But shopping locally is even more important now in the context of this pandemic.

“So many of our local and central shopping districts and businesses face the twin threats of vastly reduced demand and online home deliveries. Many local businesses have been cornerstones of our communities for years and stayed solid for us during this pandemic. It’s our turn now to help them too.”