A Nightmare Before Christmas for our local businesses

Like many other local business owners out there, I am worried about what will happen to our High Streets, hospitality, travel and other smaller businesses.

There are so many that have spent thousands of their hard-earned cash to make their businesses Covid safe to get them through the winter. The run-up to Christmas is vital to sustain them through January and February and with doors closed and no footfall, we will see the online giants benefit once again.

This lockdown is more serious than the last and will sound the death-knell for many and is so ironic that it came on Halloween of all days. Financial support can only go so far – businesses have rates and rents to pay and pubs and small breweries are likely to be brought to their knees.

Many are better prepared to deal with a second lockdown with take-away services ready to roll for the second time but this next month is a crucial trading period for our high streets.

Customers who want to support their local shops will struggle to do so if only the food outlets are open. Many gift shops are too small to have online stores. Etsy, Amazon and eBay take a large cut if you sell on their platforms, then you have the shipping to pay and a percentage to your merchant bank per transaction which leaves many retailers wondering whether it is worth it. You can set up your own shop on platforms like Shopify, but you still have costs, shipping, merchant costs and marketing plus the time it takes you to enter every product, description and photograph it and then work out your shipping cost. This is not something that is undertaken lightly or quickly.  

However, that’s not the point. People want to shop on their High Streets; they want the opportunity to browse, and to work locally as well as to put something back into their local community. Orders have been placed for large items that may not now arrive before Christmas, or kitchens and bathrooms that were hoped to be installed. Delays on these push other customers back further into 2021 and beyond.

Yes, we have to protect the NHS and the elderly, but this is a time when our communities, need to come together and work together for the good of their towns and cities. We see endless images on social media, and the news, of people disregarding advice. There have always been world problems and threats, it’s nothing new, but you have to take the bull by the horns and make those life choices. So, we have to pull together.

Sadly, this lockdown is likely to cause more deaths not just from cancer and heart disease, but suicides from job losses and bankruptcies and many mental illnesses. People need to see one another, share struggles, get support from friends and like-minded individuals, not being able to do that is damaging for the individual, and their whole family. People need to believe in a future for themselves and their family.

We need to be supporting start-ups which will create new jobs in the future. There are some great ideas out there but, as people are at the moment, they don’t have the funding to get things off the ground. Instead of paying people for being on furlough, why not offer them an income while they launch their own business?

And, then on top of that, we have Brexit! That’s been forgotten this weekend. We have been assured for months that everything will be sorted – and deadline after deadline has passed with nothing concrete on the table. Our fishing industry has always been a bone of contention with the French, but it makes you think if we can’t even produce a successful Track & Trace App that we can be proud of, what chance do will our manufacturers have when goods are stuck both sides of the channel? How many more businesses will have to stop work? It won’t be because of Covid but down to paperwork, policies and the inevitable red-tape.

A winter of discontent? Likely. We can but hope there is a glimmer at the end of the rainbow.

As a final word, we are around to help local businesses in East and West Sussex. Take a look at our first article on surviving Covid, or if you want to talk about your website, marketing, SEO and what you can be doing during the lockdown to ensure your business is in the best place to come out of it fighting, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or email Julia@finemarketing.co.uk – 07572 422303. We will help where we can.