So, here we are in a new lockdown for England lasting at least four weeks. But before we hunker down on the sofa with all the delivery apps open on the phone, Googling Christmas shopping ideas and firing off random Amazon orders, let’s consider what we enjoy about our local communities. How would we feel if they were to change forever, and not for the better?
We have a thriving community of diverse service providers in and around the RG10 area. Our actions over the coming weeks and months can help keep it that way for the future.
Whever you live, in your mind, take a stroll around your area. What shops do you see? Perhaps some you know well, others you’ve always been meaning to explore. What about the pubs, restaurants and cafes? And the medical, dental, optical and other healthcare practices? Plus all the offices in between, hiding creatives, business professionals and other service providers? And the sports and leisure facilities? Not to mention the myriad vans bringing home other friends and neighbours, skilled workers who maintain, repair and upgrade the homes and gardens in your neighbourhood.
Once you have a picture of the rich diversity of your local economy, imagine how it would feel a year or two from now if a large number of those businesses were no longer trading. If the challenges of Covid-19 had finally put paid to the hopes, dreams and livelihoods of hard-working people who simply could not sustain the drop in trade despite the extension of financial help from the government. They may have had to close their premises but perhaps were still operating virtually. They may have offered similar products, services and prices as the mega sites online, and most likely better customer service, but we did not make the effort to seek them out and support them.
All very well, I hear you say, but isn’t it easier to just order products via Amazon or choose a service provider from the first page of a Google search? This type of shopping has its place, but often a local business could give as much if not greater satisfaction. As well as enjoying the sense of being party to a transaction between real people, you could be helping someone who lives on your road, or whose child is in the same class as yours, or who you chatted with at the pub in better times. We may not always realise it, but research has proven that we are more likely to buy again from people we know, like and trust. Being active participants in our local economy can give us the foundation for building those relationships.
Here are six ways you can support local businesses through the uncertain winter ahead.
- Shop local – online
Many local businesses invested in improving their online offering earlier in the year, so even those with the door closed may still be operating. Look them up on social media, ask for recommendations on local Facebook groups, even contact those directly that you would like to support, asking what they are currently providing and how.
Small local businesses rely on getting a decent share of the seasonal spend in the run-up to Christmas, and this year it’s really important to ‘support local’ as much as we can.
2. Order a takeaway
When ordering from a local takeaway, consider contacting them direct; if they can fulfil more orders this way it saves on commission paid to the big delivery companies such as Just Eat, Deliveroo or Uber Eats.
As well as the usual takeaways in your area, check which of your local pubs and restaurants are offering a meal delivery or collection service rather than closing for lockdown. Most have a social media presence even in the absence of a website, and in any case their Facebook or Instagram pages are more likely to have the latest news.
If you can, consider gifting a meal to a vulnerable neighbour, or perhaps a friend marking a special occasion. If you enjoy your draft beer, don’t forget to order with your pub meal.
3. Buy a gift voucher
Support your favourite shop, beauty salon, florist or other local business by buying a gift card to use in the future, or as a present for someone else. This is a brilliant way to demonstrate your appreciation for what they add to your area.
4. Take classes online
So you can’t go to the gym any more or take part in group activities outdoors. All the more reason for scheduling online classes for your preferred healthy activity, from yoga and meditation to Zumba or HIIT. Instructors of all types are back working hard delivering classes via Zoom, having perfected their digital skills during the first lockdown.
And it’s not just fitness: why not take up a new hobby such as painting in watercolours or learning another language?
5. Keep a look out for online events and marketplaces
Everyone from councils to school PTAs to groups of similar small businesses such as crafts people and artisan food producers are finding ways to create online shopping events over the coming weeks and months. Keep your eyes peeled and share with others when you spot something too good to miss!
6. Spread the word
Increase the online reach for local businesses by following and engaging with their posts on social media. Many have taken to Facebook, Instagram and the like to keep their fans up to date with their activities and offers.
If you use the services of a local business, leave a review for them on their Google, CheckATrade, Facebook, LinkedIn or other platform as appropriate.
When you see a member of a local Facebook group seeking a professional service or trades person, take the trouble to recommend any local businesses whose work you have been happy with.