‘Things will go full circle’ - The rise of the local corner shop during lockdown
- Credit: Archant
Britain has often been labelled a nation of shopkeepers, and during lockdown corner shops, greengrocers and butchers became a lifeline.
Andrew Ross, owner of Clova Greengrocers on Corbet Avenue, Sprowston, said: “I feel things will go full circle and people will return to their local shops.”
He added that just before and at the start of lockdown in March the business, which started five years ago, was “rammed”.
Even now, he said the number of customers he has now is higher than pre-lockdown.
The business, which employs two people, ventured into home deliveries, which was popular at the start of lockdown but has eased off as restrictions loosened.
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Mr Ross said he has retained the new customers he gained through deliveries and that the store is now attracting more young families.
He believes this is down to people feeling safer in smaller shops compared with larger supermarkets and the offer of high-quality local produce.
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Mr Ross, a former HGV driver, added: “Small local shops like this are vital for areas like this. We have people saying they would be lost without this shop. We need more shops like this. I’m not out to be a millionaire but I want to give something back to the community.”
He said the lockdown had taught him that everyone needs to work harder to keep any business going.
Colin Hazel, who owns Hazels Butchers, also on Corbet Avenue, said the business, which started 40 years ago, made up for lost custom to caterers, schools and restaurants during the lockdown by setting up home deliveries across Norfolk.
Mr Hazel, who has been a butcher for 53 years, said his shop was doing the same amount of business now compared with pre-coronavirus.
“People are realising they get better produce from a butcher. We will be okay. We are fortunate - people have got to eat,” he added.
The butcher said the business did remarkably well in the beginning of lockdown and added people’s long-term cooking habits had changed after restaurants and cafés closed.
Luke Coathup, owner of The Green Grocers at Earlham House, off Earlham Road, said business has gone up more than 20pc since lockdown.
He said trade dramatically increased overnight after people started panic buying and a home delivery service attracted between 70 and 100 orders per day in its peak.
Mr Coathup added some of the new customers who had deliveries began to shop in the store which he hopes to expand into the next-door building to make more space.
He also wants to create a refill station as more people wanted to reduce packaging to protect the environment.
Mr Coathup said: “People are very mindful of the impact on the environment. They said that during lockdown there was cleaner air. They are trying to make a difference.
“We are very lucky in Norwich. We have a thriving community of small independent businesses. I think those businesses that adapted during Covid-19 and have grown are going to be safe because customers would have acknowledged the change. It is about businesses keeping their heads above water at the moment.”
MORE: Footfall on the up in Norwich as shoppers return to the cityManager Kelly Moore said customers were very grateful for the greengrocers when they could not get supermarket delivery slots or items from bigger stores.
She said: “We can offer that personal service you cannot get from a big supermarket.“
Makwan Nader, who has owned Norfolk Daily Fresh on Magdalen Road for four years, which sells meat, bread and fresh fruit and vegetables, said trade was up 20pc and was busy during lockdown.
The shop is due to start a home delivery service next month.
But Gail Watling, who has run Reds Convenience Store on St Benedicts Street for four years, said she has lost a lot of trade due to the lack of city centre office workers buying lunches and the temporary car ban on the street.
She said there was still support from regular customers and she made up some of the losses by offering home deliveries but added: “For us it is about survival. It is a worry. I am not sure if we will be here next year.”
Kevin Mackinder, proprietor of Constitution Stores, on the corner of George Hill and Constitution Hill, in Old Catton, said the initial increase in trade from people across Norwich seeking essential supplies including medicine, bread and toilet roll at the start of lockdown had died down.
He said many had gone back to their old shopping habits and returned to the supermarkets.
Mr Mackinder, who bought the business last year and also did home deliveries, added: “We will keep afloat. This is a local community shop and the people in my community are loyal.”