Rise in support
One of the biggest positives to have come out of the pandemic is the rise in support for local businesses. Whether it be your cafe on the corner offering takeaway food, or your local pub delivering beers, small businesses have had to adapt almost overnight to try and keep afloat during lockdowns.
Luckily, local communities have got behind them, and many have managed to survive as people look to their local area more than ever to buy things. And this is increasingly likely to remain a trend going forward.
Data from the YouGov Covid-19 Tracker proves this point, with 62% of respondents saying that they will support local businesses or buy local produce post-pandemic. This figure has consistently superseded any other behaviours we have asked about.
Source: YouGov COVID-19 tracker, Aug 17th 2020
With this in mind, we got in touch with three local businesses who saw a surge in support and demand during lockdowns to hear about their experiences and if they think this love for local will continue in 2021 and beyond.
The first business we got in touch with as part of our ‘Love for Local’ series is Strolling 4 Shoes. We spoke with Andrew Marshall who owns the family-run footwear retailer in Cumbria.
How has Strolling 4 Shoes had to adapt and innovate to cope with the pandemic?
As a non-essential retailer, Strolling 4 Shoes had to close both their retail stores in Cumbria during lockdown. Determined to continue trading, they had to adapt to ensure the business could stay operational. They initially switched focus to their online and ecommerce channels but in time also introduced a range of innovative ways to shop. For example, to make use of their retail space, Strolling 4 Shoes created a ‘vending machine’ in their shop window, where passers-by could identify their desired shoes through a unique number, then contact the shop to organise a free delivery and returns service.
When the shop reopened, it introduced bookable shopping slots to ensure any vulnerable or nervous shoppers could browse the shop at ease. To cater to small groups they also introduced ‘bubble shopping events’ with music and refreshments to welcome back shoppers and create a relaxing and fun experience.
Not only did Strolling 4 Shoes innovate their customer journey but they also adapted their advertising communications to ensure they struck the right tone. They worked with ITV to create quality and affordable TV ads, first to promote their online offering and then to announce that the shop had re-opened. For owner Andrew, it was essential to “keep the brand alive” and front of mind at a time when consumers could have easily shopped online elsewhere.
Have you noticed an uplift in people wanting to support local businesses during lockdown?
Businesses in the idyllic town of Cockermouth are no stranger to adversity, having had floods hit the community hard in 2009 and 2015. The pandemic brought a new wave of challenges; however Strolling 4 Shoes, as well as the many other independent businesses in the town, saw a surge of support. With the belief that “working together is better”, retailers supported one another, promoting each other’s services and incentivising shoppers to shop and eat on the local high street.
To welcome shoppers back after the first lockdown, Cockermouth Chamber of Trade along with 6 local businesses collaborated to create a TV advert which aired across the county to tell people the town was open for business.
Do you think this support for local businesses will continue after lockdown eases?
The uplift in people wanting to shop local has continued beyond the first strict lockdown, with three new businesses opening in the town since June. Andrew believes their decision to keep Strolling 4 Shoes operational during lockdown has paid off and grown brand loyalty amongst their customers. The efforts made in lockdown have not gone unnoticed and shoppers have praised the steps Strolling 4 Shoes made to adapt and serve their community.
“Try and maintain a positive attitude, and when the normal rules and routines no longer exist, try something new! Often people say to think outside of the box – but I don’t believe there is a box.”Andrew Marshall, Owner of Strolling 4 Shoes