Rallying call: Get behind our region’s independent shops on Small Business Saturday

Late night Christmas shopping and lights in Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Late night Christmas shopping and lights in Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Step away from the supermarket, leave the chain store behind and support your local independent shops today.

Norwich Lanes call for people to shop local. Picture: Submitted

Norwich Lanes call for people to shop local. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

That is the rallying call from the organisers of Small Business Saturday, an event which aims to encourage people to 'shop small' to boost their high street.

And as the Christmas shopping frenzy continues, it is also a chance for businesses to highlight the challenges facing them.

Jonty Young, marketing manager for the Norwich Lanes, said for every pound spent in a small business, between 60 to 70p went back into the local economy, compared with just five to 10p spent in chain stores.

'I think it's really important to shop local if you want a community to survive,' he added.

Peter Motts, Miriam Devlin and Emily Duke, directors at family-owned Thorns. Picture: © Sylvaine Poi

Peter Motts, Miriam Devlin and Emily Duke, directors at family-owned Thorns. Picture: © Sylvaine Poitau Photography - Credit: Archant

'The Norwich Lanes survives purely by people maintaining relationships with their customers.'

Now in its third year, Small Business Saturday involves about five million shops and is widely backed by local authorities, trade organisations and companies such as American Express, which founded the event in the US in 2010.

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Last year, independent businesses took £504m across the UK on the day from an estimated 16.5 million people, a 20pc increase in footfall on 2013.

Among those supporting the day in Norfolk is Broadland District Council which has organised a minibus tour of small businesses in the district, and urged people to 'Buy in Broadland'.

Raf Turnbull with his limited edition Back to the Future trainers at his trainer shop, Main Source.

Raf Turnbull with his limited edition Back to the Future trainers at his trainer shop, Main Source. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

Stuart Clancy, portfolio holder for economic development at Broadland District Council, said: 'With free parking and Christmas lights, this weekend is a great time to support our Buy in Broadland campaign. I would encourage all residents to buy locally and support our local businesses.'

In a new Post Office survey ahead of Small Business Saturday, a quarter of people said they were more likely to do their shopping with local small businesses than five years ago.

But Norwich city councillor James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, highlighted challenges facing small business owners, who often pay themselves below the minimum wage in order to keep staff on, he said.

He added: 'Small and micro businesses make up 95.1pc of businesses in Norwich. They are the backbone of our community, employ thousands of people and help our local economy to grow.

'They work incredibly hard and sacrifice an awful lot; the least the government can do is help them to succeed.'

He called for greater powers for small businesses to tackle late payments from big businesses, and investment in faster broadband.

Firm challenges:

For family-owned firm Thorns, which sells DIY products and has just celebrated its 180th anniversary, one of the biggest challenges is internet sales. With customers often expecting price matching, staying up to date with competitors is a challenge, according to director Miriam Devlin. 'That's why it is good for our suppliers to set prices and stick to them whether it's online or in store,' she said.

'But if we're aware of these things we work around them, such as adding free delivery or add on sale.'

Samia Evans, owner of vegetarian food spot Moorish Falafal Bar in Norwich, said there was not enough government support for small businesses. 'It's easy to get weighed down by taxes from the very beginning,' she said. 'There's no let-up for a new business.'

Raf Turnbull, owner of trainer and clothes boutique Main Source, said the biggest challenge was drawing people away from the bright lights of indoor shopping centres to Norwich Lanes.

'A lot of people think they can park there and everything they need is under one roof. It's getting them down to this end of the city which is a challenge,' he said.

Is your firm eyeing success? Call 01603 772879 or email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk