Shop Local: Hackney shops ask customers to shop locally online or in person this Christmas
- Credit: Holly Chant
Hackney businesses say the coronavirus crisis has left them worse off this year and decreased footfall has seen sales for some shops plummet by 50 or 25 per cent.
A survey of 18 independent businesses in Hoxton, Shoreditch, Dalston and Stoke Newington was conducted by the Hackney Gazette to find out how they have been affected by the pandemic as part of a new Shop Local campaign.
The head of retail at St Vincent’s charity shop on Kingsland Road, Helen Voyce, said running her shop has been “challenging”.
“We are not achieving the income we had last year and I would be surprised if anybody is,” she said.
Helen hopes more people will buy Christmas presents locally this year, especially from charity shops like hers.
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“Shop local, save the planet, treat yourself - because we’re cheap and treat other people, because whatever money you spend at St Vincent’s is going to help others in need,” Helen said.
All shops surveyed said they were reliant on Christmas trading, with many stating it was a peak shopping period.
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One hundred pc of independent businesses surveyed said they were worse off than last year, but several stated they still expect the festive season to be the busiest time of year amid reduced sales.
Masie Brown, store manager of Amathus Drinks in Old Street, said Christmas tends to be the specialist alcohol retailer’s best month.
She told the Gazette: “I think we should still do better than we do the rest of the year, but unfortunately we’re not going to make half of what we did last year.”
Seven out of 10 shops said they could carry on if no further restrictions were implemented, with two employees saying they did not know or preferred not to speculate.
However, when asked how tighter restrictions or a national lockdown might affect business, all owners, managers and employees surveyed said it would hit sales further and 25pc said they may be forced to let go of staff.
The average number of people employed by each shop surveyed was around four and some shops like specialist Dalston film bookshop and cafe Ripley and Lambert had only been open for just over a year.
Others surveyed were more established, having been running for a number of years or decades, with one over a century old.
Catherine Staples, owner of Ripley and Lambert, said she hopes if tougher measures are implemented there will be some form of government support for businesses like hers.
She wanted to let customers know: “We’re taking all the safety measures very seriously. We’re here and open, come in.
“It’s safe but also, if you’re too worried about it, we’ve got an online shop, so make sure to shop local online.”
Around 80pc of independent retailers had a negative response when asked about reopening, with some saying business had been “difficult” or quiet since opening back up in June.
However, other businesses said the reopening period was “smooth”, apart from smaller issues with customers adhering to social distancing guidelines and frustrations over no longer accepting cash payments.
Despite the majority of local retailers saying they launched or already had a means of selling products online or by telephone, almost 20pc said e-commerce would not work for their business.
The manager of Orhan London Tailoring on Pitfield Street, Joseph Crouch, explained how an online store was not suitable: “Everything we do is made to measure, custom made for people, so we always need to have a client in front of us so we can take the measures and guide them through the process.”
He said the tailors would not fully recover until events are back on and offices open, but he said the alterations side of the business has helped it survive, particularly as people buy clothes online that don’t fit well.
The survey revealed a few shops had recently launched websites prior to lockdown or in response to it, with owners who felt they needed to increase their online presence.
Businesses listed a range of support accessed, including rent reduction, government grants and the furlough scheme. Of those asked, 50pc said the government response to helping businesses during the pandemic was “good”. Almost 40pc said it was neither good or bad.
Many said less visitors to the borough, like office workers and tourists, had lead to a loss of sales and a greater reliance on local custom.
As part of the Gazette’s Shop Local campaign, we’ll be highlighting the indispensable work of our independent traders. If you want to highlight a local business or tell us how things have been for you - get in touch at Holly.Chant@archant.co.uk.
Visit Ripley and Lambert’s online shop here.
To shop or donate to St Vincent’s click here
For more information on Bookartbookshop click here.
For more information about Orhan Tailoring click here
To order Amuthus Drinks online click here or find them on deliveroo.