Let’s Shop Local and ‘bootstrap our own 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 region will go bust without a bumper Christmas, new research has shown.

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

The poll was commissioned by the Eastern Daily Press 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 streets and spark a wave of online spending.

Keeping money in Norfolk and Waveney 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.

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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, 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.”

Which is why the EDP has launched Shop Local, a campaign encouraging our readers across the county to keep the pound in the regional economy and with the retailers who need it the most.

Richard Porritt, Eastern Daily Press 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 has been welcomed by the Federation for Small Businesses.

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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.

Duncan Baker, MP for north Norfolk, said: “I fully support the Eastern Daily Press campaign to Shop Local. Our local shops have been the lifeblood of our economy and a backbone of support throughout this pandemic.

“Coming from a local business environment myself I believe passionately that we must encourage, nurture and support our local businesses.

“The efforts so many local shops and suppliers have gone to in order to serve their customers in a safe way throughout this pandemic is a testament to how important local businesses are.

“The quality and range of local shops and producers is often second to none, and as they stepped up to help us, I hope we will back our local shops in recognition of the importance they bring to the community.” Richard Bacon, MP for south Norfolk, said: “As a famous philosopher once said: ‘No one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little’. It starts with how you spend the pound in your pocket and the cumulative effect of many people supporting local businesses really makes a difference. I am very pleased to support the EDP’s excellent Shop Local campaign.”