Is Totally Locally the glimmer of hope we are looking for ?
As a small business owner with both a physical shop and an online store I could really do with being able to see into the future !!
Will people shop local and support the small independent shops once we are all able to re-open ?
Will small businesses survive the pandemic and rise like a phoenix from this Lockdown ?
I bought my business in October 2019, a time before Covid-19, if anyone can actually remember such a time ! I had dreams, hope and vision.
I now find myself with a Gifts and Hampers shop that is closed for the foreseeable future. My neighbours, the shops around me also closed. Leigh Road more of a ghost town than the bustling street it once was.
Lockdown 1.0 brought about changes. We were like fledglings, trying to fathom the changing world around us. Ill-prepared and completely out of our comfort zones. For 12 weeks, many of us stayed at home, shell-shocked.
When we emerged from what felt like hibernation we had to get used to the new 'Normal'. Not getting too close to people, wearing our masks when we went into shops. We bumbled along for a while, starting to think that maybe things werent too bad. Tentatively taking small steps back to the life we once knew.
Lockdown 2.0 hit and for a specific period this time of 4 weeks, we were put on pause again. Shops shut. Gyms closed. Our new found limited freedom reduced yet again. We had hoped not to return to this. But, we knew it wasn't for long. We would be back open in time for Christmas. This was when I was looking forward to seeing everyone who would be in to buy their gifts and hampers.
And they arrived, in abundance. The end of lockdown was celebrated by many, with shopping !! Some felt like they might forget the skills they had gained during their lifetime if they didnt get out there!! Some seemed to be on a timer, worried they may be forced to stop again. No-one knowing what was next.
For 18 days my little shop was just how I imagined it could be. I spent the days chatting to all sorts of people, advising them on the perfect gift. Wrapping and presenting them with something we both hoped their loved-one would enjoy. I was smiling, albeit underneath my mask. I was living my dream.
Lockdown 3.0 was a bitter blow. With only 4 shopping days left until Christmas, we had to close yet again on December 20th 2020. The planned gifts for last minute shoppers sat on the shelves, abandoned. A quick-thinking Online Auction idea managed to find homes for most of them. Complete tragedy averted. But a sad end to a very sad year.
Christmas came and went like no other the world had experienced. January passed in the blink of an eye. The shop still closed. The bills still coming in. Help from the government finally arrived and the bills could be paid. Extremely grateful for a lifeline. But what of our future. What of the future of so many businesses.
Is there still a place for them ??
How many more lockdowns can we endure ??
These are the questions so many need answering, but only the future holds the answers. In the meantime we do what we can. We look at what others are doing. A treadmill of time and uncertainty. But we must remain optimistic.
A new initiative which I have been involved with recently is looking to revive the small businesses. Compete with the 'Big Boys', but on a local selling platform, all around the country. Totally Locally is a national organisation which describes itself as something special. What started out as a small idea in the North of England has grown into a multi-award-winning worldwide movement.
Groups of volunteers in towns and areas use their Town Kit, following guidelines, templates and strategies to make their town stronger, more vibrant and resilient. A spirit of co-operation is what they are seeking, and a better Independent High Street.
Trials have taken place in Hebden Bridge and Leek. Feedback has been incredibly positive with some shops seeing a revival, saved from otherwise certain closure. It is the chink of light that I hope and believe local businesses could be looking for.
I also believe that people do want to shop local and support their local shops. The overwhelming support and feedback I heard from the people in Leigh-on-sea in December was fantastic. I have to assume we are not the only place where people want to see small businesses thrive.
So, lets get behind this campaign and support these volunteers. Totally Locally Southend will encompass a wide area from Eastwood, to Leigh, Westcliff to Shoeburyness and everywhere in between. A place where small independent businesses can come online and sell together. Support each other. And most importantly, stay open.
You can find out more by clicking on the link to Totally Locally above, or sign up to the initiative by clicking the link below: