‘People come in for the banter’ - Seaside high street traders reveal why shoppers love going local
- Credit: Archant
Independent businesses on a seaside high street have issued a clear message to the community as winter approaches - “use us or lose us”.
Along Gorleston High Street on Tuesday morning things felt busy, and some shops had queues out the door.
But there was still fears among traders that dwindling footfall could leave them struggling to keep pace with business rates and the costs of ‘Covid proofing’ their premises beyond the new year.
This paper’s campaign, Shop Local, is a plea to shoppers to consider independent businesses this Christmas in a bid to bolster our beloved high streets.
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.
Richard Routledge, owner of What is Hip clothing store, said: “I think the difference between us and the big retailers is that coming here is an experience.
“Of course, online is the way of the future - but if you don’t shop local you’re condemning the high street to death.
“When people come to my shop, it’s an occasion. It’s about making customers feel welcome, chatting to them and getting to know them. You don’t get that anywhere else.”
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He added: “When I set this up four years ago, it was to meet a gap in the market for the over-40s who wanted stylish, retro 1940s-60s clothes and didn’t want to get everything they wore from Marks and Spencer.
“We get men in here who’ve never been shopping before, and we talk about fashion, music, life back in the day.
“I had one lady tell me she couldn’t get her husband out of this shop.
“Most importantly, coming here is fun. That’s the joy of frequenting your independents.
“Generally, the business is doing well thanks to online as well as in-store sales. But we need footfall over Christmas more than ever.”
Likewise, The Hair Base owner Emma Jarvis said: “Here at my salon, we’re a family. We’ve got impeccable hygiene standards, lots of well-trained local girls and lots of regulars.
“It’s been tough in recent months for my industry in particular, and as soon as people hear the cases are going up the phone stops ringing.
“But I want to assure people that it’s as safe as it possibly can be to come here.
“We’ve got 31 hours of cleaning time set aside each week to make sure it is. I’ve sort of adopted a saying: safe is the new sexy.
“Besides, you can guarantee we’ll be shut as soon as another lockdown comes - so use us while you can! Get your hair done locally, eat in your local restaurants, shop in your local stores.
“We really need it right now as small independent businesses are struggling.”
MORE: 9 of the best Christmas markets running in NorfolkDerek Sharpin, who has run Keith’s Butchers for 30 years, said it was a matter of “using us or losing us”.
He said: “We need people coming through the door, it’s as simple as that.”
His colleague, Dean Knowles, echoed his boss. He said: “Those very same people who will say it’s a ‘shame’ when local businesses shut are the ones who need to get out here and help make a difference.
“At this butchers, you get the quality that you don’t get in supermarkets. We care for our customers and we know them. People come in here for the banter, and that’s what makes it a unique experience.”
Roger Webster, who co-owns Music Lovers with his Spanish rescue dog Seb, said he often had people “driving all the way in from Norwich” to explore his selection of vinyls, and to visit his adorable canine companion.
“I don’t do online”, he said.
“I much prefer it when people come in here in person. You see locals talking in the shop, asking each other about their day. I get people asking to do swaps on books and DVDs, and I buy a lot of second-hand items from people direct.
“It’s that banter and familiarity that we can offer - and you definitely don’t get banter in Asda.”