Support your High Street: Why shopping local is more important than ever
Many high street businesses were revitalised during the pandemic as people shopped locally, but that support needs to continue to ensure their survival. Exposed Mag spoke to Sally Pepper from Business Sheffield and three local business owners who want to shout about their high street.
It’s been an unbelievably challenging two years for high street businesses, and while this spring has brought some feelings of relief, there are still many peaks and troughs to navigate. Even though our high street businesses continue to face unprecedented challenges, they’ve also gained a new significance for shoppers and their local community.
Sally Pepper, business information officer at Business Sheffield said: “Before COVID-19, the retail landscape was already shifting with the loss of many retail giants. The pandemic threw a curveball into the mix, accelerating our use of online shopping but with a spin towards local high streets and independents as we were forced to shop locally.”
“I’ve always believed that independent retailers would play a large part in redefining the retail landscape and I think in part that is now coming true. Many more people are shopping locally and have discovered businesses they didn’t know about.”
“If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that we need connection. We need to feel part of our community, at work, at home or with friends. A high street community is no different – customers want to buy from real people, and businesses want support from like-minded neighbours.”
“Why not make a point of visiting other businesses on your high street and further afield? If there isn’t a business networking group in your area, start one. There may also be local community groups that you can join – after all, local businesses are part of what drives and defines that community.”
Happy Hare, Chapeltown
Happy Hare is a fabric shop in Chapeltown which sells handmade craft items and fabric for dressmaking and patchwork.
The shop is owned by Lisa Birkett, who took it over after a stressful job working long hours all over the country left her wondering if she could change career and follow her passion for crafts.
Lisa said: “It’s important to me to support other independent businesses, so our dressmaking patterns are from small indie companies. We also stock wool which is reared, sheared and spun in the UK.”
“The first thing I learnt was opening a fabric shop costs a lot more than you think it’s going to! It’s been a particularly tough couple of years, as it has for everyone. We’re lucky in that a lot of people want to see and feel the fabric before they buy, which will hopefully mean that there is a future for bricks and mortar fabric businesses.”
“High streets have just become so homogenous and little independent businesses are one thing which helps to make a street unique. You’ll usually find the owner working there, and there is generally a real focus on customer service because the success of that business is what pays the mortgage.”
“Chapeltown has some great independent businesses, which are well worth a look. We are also in the process of writing a treasure hunt, which will be a trail that families can follow, taking them all around the area and we hope this will attract more people to the high street here.”
Good Taste, Broomhill
Good Taste is Sheffield’s only fairtrade shop, selling a variety of fairly and ethically traded food, crafts, toys, cards and more.
Lucy Morley, co-founder of Good Taste said: “We love giving people the opportunity to buy things which make a real difference to the people that have created or grown them. We have lots of very loyal customers who we enjoy getting to know and whose support is invaluable.”
“Broomhill is a great community to be part of. There are so many independent shops, salons and restaurants and the students give it a real buzz! Being a main thoroughfare means thousands of people travel through every day, but if you take the time to stop and explore it really is a great place to shop. Everything is located relatively close together, so you don’t have to walk very far to get everything you need.”
“Rising prices are our biggest challenge at the moment. We know that people are struggling more financially and may be less likely to shop in independents like ours. Word of mouth is always a good advert and it’s great to see new customers coming into the shop off the back of recommendations from friends.”
The Cake Shop, Hillsborough
The Cake Shop supplies bespoke handmade cakes for any occasion. Set up in 2010, the business now has a base on Holme Lane in Hillsborough and owner Gill Smith also offers sugar craft teaching courses.
Gill said: “I love teaching students who walk in thinking they are not capable of producing what I present them with at the start of a class. I love it when they walk out at the end of a session clutching their creation with a big beam on their faces. I also get the same feeling when customers walk in to pick up a cake and tears of happiness start flowing.”
“In Hillsborough, there is such a variety of shops with hundreds of small businesses along with cafes and bars galore. In local shops, the goods can be held, felt for quality, checked for size and we can give valuable advice to customers on how to get the best out of their purchases. We are specialists selling specialised goods and love to see our customers improving their knowledge after listening and taking in the advice we can offer.”
“Our biggest challenge comes from internet companies, which people find so easy to order from whilst sitting at home. We do take time out to check prices on the internet to ensure we are competitive but sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to prove this when people order goods online.”