Non-essential Hackney shops prepare to reopen after weeks of coronavirus lockdown
PUBLISHED: 13:34 14 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:34 14 June 2020
Eat Work Art
Non-essential shops all over Hackney and across the UK have been gearing up to reopen as part of the government’s three-stage plan to ease coronavirus lockdown measures.
After the uncertainty and financial pressure felt by both big and small businesses alike during the period of forced closure and as they prepare to safely welcome back customers on June 15, business owners from Hackney Downs Studios and Netil Market and House in London Fields share their thoughts on getting back to business.
The founder of sustainable refill shop Re:Store, Megan Adams, told the Gazette: “As a small business, we rely on the local community continuing to shop with us.
“Hackney is the vibrant and exciting place it is because of the huge variety of independent businesses, we need to support these now more than ever to preserve this.
“Where possible buy local products, vouchers for future events and spread the word about your favourite independent businesses.”
The store in Hackney Downs Studios will reopen on June 15 but now the containers customers bring to shop for kitchen essentials such as wholefoods must be refilled by staff members.
Extra safety measures to ensure premises are Covid-19 secure are now a government requirement so only one customer will be allowed in the store at a time.
Independent businesses have also found themselves competing with online shopping platforms like Amazon.
Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos saw his wealth increase by $24 billion during lockdown, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as shoppers stayed at home and turned to online platforms.
Bryony Lloyd, managing director of Antenne Books in Hackney Downs Studios, said: “Local shops used to be the beating heart of communities. That has now entirely disappeared in some places due to large corporations.
“Jeff Bezos is on track to become a trillionaire, yet we can see how harmful Amazon has been to many local businesses. In turn, our communities suffer.”
Director of Outdoor People Cath Prisk agrees and thinks people need to shop at locally-owned independent shops to keep Hackney diverse.
Her shop sells a wide range of outdoor products and camping gear at Netil Market and plans to re-open its tent hire service soon.
Cath said: “Most shops can barely scrape a living at the best of times with rents increasing and the cost of living going up every year.”
She says competing with massive online and out-of-town stores on price is “near impossible”, but on “quality, customer service and local know-how we can’t be beaten,” she added.
Meanwhile, some local businesses have even seen a significant increase in sales after closing their doors in March.
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Olivia Crighton, owner of Glasshouse Salon at Netil House told the Gazette: “We’ve considered ourselves really lucky during this lockdown period as we already had a well-established online store.
“Our clients have really got behind us.”
However, despite the success of the organic salon’s e-store, the revenue it has produced has not made up for the income lost from her physical salon remaining closed.
The government says salons could reopen in July at the earliest.
She said: “We are beginning to put in place Covid-secure measures ahead of our reopening, which will include limiting the number of staff and clients we can have in the salon at any one time.
“As a small business, we’re nervous about the impact this reduced operation will have on us long term and the future still feels quite unknown.
“We have invested in PPE for our staff and screens to protect our clients. However, they obviously come at a cost.”
Despite the struggle they face, businesses owners like Natasha Dimitrou of unisex lifestyle brand Brother LDN thinks the lockdown has increased a sense of community.
Jess Joss and Skye Corewijn, the owners of Klei Shop at Netil Market, have also been touched by the support they’ve received from Hackney people after they started selling their handmade ceramics online.
They say shopping locally will ensure businesses like theirs will still be around when the pandemic is over.
Netil Market and house and Hackney Downs Studios are run by Eat Work Art which was established in 2009 with the aim of revitalising disused buildings in London turning them into workspaces for independent creative establishments.
Erika Joyce, Head of Operations at Eat Work Art said: “Our business fundamentally exists to support and nurture our creative community. This has been new territory for everyone and we have worked closely with our residents to offer tailored support where possible to ensure businesses can adapt, survive and eventually thrive.”
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