Will you support local independents this Small Business Saturday?

Councillor Paul claussen and Santa looking for cheeky elves in Attleborough. Picture: Breckland Coun

Councillor Paul claussen and Santa looking for cheeky elves in Attleborough. Picture: Breckland Council - Credit: Archant

With the most critical time of the year for retailers looming, consumers have been implored to 'think of the little shop' as they begin their gift buying.

Julie Cole from Benedict's Cove. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Julie Cole from Benedict's Cove. Picture: Stuart Anderson - Credit: Archant

Today is Small Business Saturday, a day encouraging customers to shop local and support their independent traders.

The year 2018 has been a difficult year for the high street, with big names such as House of Fraser and Debenhams feeling the strain as online competition grows in strength.

For that reason, business groups are urging shoppers to think hard about how they spend their cash at this time or year, which can often be key for retailers.

Nova Fairbank of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce said: 'There are approximately 33,000 businesses is Norfolk and the majority of them are small enterprises. We have a great selection of unique and small independent retailers and they ensure that our retail offering is diverse and innovative, however we need to show our support of them, by continuing to shop locally.

The Norwich Lanes summer fayre. Picture: Ian Burt

The Norwich Lanes summer fayre. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

'We should ensure Small Business Saturday remains a staple in our retail calendar.'

In the Norwich Lanes, which won the Great British High Street of the Year award in 2014, marketing manager Jonty Young hoped that shoppers would start a habit they continue all year.

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Mr Young said: 'It is well worth remembering that for every £1 spent with a local, independent business, between 50p-70p circulates back into that local economy while shopping in chain store or with corporate, out of town retailers, only generates around 5p back into the local community.

'We would therefore obviously call on the good people of Norfolk to buy local and shop independent this Christmas, and indeed all year.'

Porkstock - Norfolk Gin

Porkstock - Norfolk Gin - Credit: Archant

Spreading the love

And it's not just in Norwich - other town-centre retailers across Norfolk are also hoping shoppers remember them this Christmas.

Julie Cole, owner of Benedict's Cove on Cromer High Street, said: 'I think we just start to blend in after a while and we're forgotten about - they don't think of the little shop.

'People either want to sit in bed ordering online, or when they go gift shopping they head into the city. They shop at places like the Card Factory and then get upset when their local card shop closes - if they made those purchases in town, businesses wouldn't be closing.'

Mrs Cole, who set up the shop for her son Benedict, in the hope he will one day take it on, continued: 'Events like Small Business Saturday are good, but when we have to do promotions to get people to shop local we're just giving away our profits. Neither me nor my son take a wage and we are slowly growing, but everyone's struggling.'

The green option

Buying local isn't just about supporting your region's local economy; it's also a market place for artisan and ethically-made produce.

Norfolk Gin was first created in 2014 by Jonathan and Alison Redding in their kitchen.

Now available across East Anglia and beyond, every batch of Norfolk Gin is still made by hand in the Norwich gin studio.

The Reddings have been committed to building a business with environmental responsibility – the bottles are made by Wade Ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent and, rather than being disposable, they are designed to be treasured, re-used or re-filled.

Several wine and spirit merchants in Norfolk already offer this refill service.

Similarly, Norfolk Gin corks are made by Rankin Brothers in the UK from sustainably grown cork, and the gin's bottles are delivered by electric vehicles, powered by Ecotricity, keeping Norfolk Gin's carbon footprint to an absolute minimum.

Elf help for the high street?

One Norfolk council thinks it has found a way to get shoppers into its towns' shops – without small businesses losing out on their margins.

Breckland Council has launched a 12 Elves of Christmas campaign in the run-up to the festive season.

An elf trail will run until December 31, in independent shops across Swaffham, Watton, Dereham, Thetford and Attleborough.

Shoppers who find all 12 of the elves will be in with a chance to win £250 in shopping vouchers.

Councillor Paul Claussen, executive member of place at the council, said: 'Our 12 Elves at Christmas trail is a great way to discover what independent shops can offer, especially during Small Business Saturday.'

A further five golden elves are suspected to be hiding at ShopAppy.com, an online shop for local independent businesses.

To take part in the trail, visit www.breckland.gov.uk/elves for more details and to download a form.