Traders calling for people to shop local this Christmas to help businesses survive

Sunderland shops need you!

Friday, 13th November 2020, 7:00 am
People are being encouraged to shop local this Christmas

As part of the Echo’s ongoing #supportlocal campaign, today we’re urging people to #clicklocal and buy from local shops and traders, online or in store where possible, this Christmas to help ensure their survival.

During lockdown we conducted our Big Conversation survey with readers in which we asked how life had changed during the pandemic, from their wellbeing to their shopping habits. In response to the survey, 43% said they were supporting local businesses more since the pandemic began and 73.7% agreed with the statement: "The Christmas period will be a good opportunity to support local businesses."

Now we’re urging people to show their support when they’re doing their Christmas shopping, whether that’s buying your turkey from a local butcher, your fruit and veg from your local high street or gifts from independent traders, whether through their websites or in store for those who’ve been able to remain open in Lockdown 2.

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Michael Curtis from Grinder outside the coffee shop. Picture by Frank Reid

At Grinder Coffee Company in Durham Road they’ve launched a Grinder Gift Card which can be used to buy coffees, cakes, as well as homewares which are sold in store. The store is one of many which has remained open for takeout in the second national lockdown.

Michael Curtis from Grinder said: "There’s a wealth of creativity in the city and we found out about a lot of small businesses through conversations with our customers. We decided to just do take out after lockdown 1, so we’re utilising the sit-in space to provide more of a retail offering.”

Sunderland brands stocked at Grinder include MBC Ceramics, Under The Ivy florists, On My Wick candles and Terra Homeware who makes terrazzo trinket trays and more.

They also work with local bakers for their cakes, which change regularly with stock from the likes of Cookie Freaks. They’re also working with city institution Müller's Bakers to provide an exclusive range for Grinder.

Some of the Sunderland-made homewares for sale at Grinder

Barlow’s Fruit and Veg in Sea Road, Fulwell, is hoping people will remember them when getting in supplies for their Christmas dinner, as well as the rest of the year.

Owner Kevin Barlow said: “We have been seeing a lot more people shop local. I think one of the main reasons is that people are not going on buses or going into the supermarkets, because they feel safer using their local shops.

"We only allow up to four people into the store at one time and 95% of those follow the one way system, whereas people congregate in the bigger stores. Our busy period for Christmas is usually only three days before, but people should support small business all year. If you don’t use them, you’ll lose them.”

The New Normal

Barlow's Fruit and Veg Kevin Barlow and daughter Sophie Barlow

Grinder opened its doors for the first time in October last year and, like all city businesses, has had to adapt to the new restrictions.

Michael, who runs the business with Riki Tsang, said: “We had all sorts of contingency plans when we opened the business, but a global pandemic wasn’t one of them.

"It has been a struggle at times, but we don’t employ staff, so we don’t have excessive pay roll costs. We lost some of our commuter trade due to the pandemic as many people aren’t getting the Metro to work anymore. But we’ve also gained business from the people working from home in nearby streets who walk along for a screen break and to grab a coffee.”

43% of readers asked in our Big Conversation survey said they were supporting local businesses more since the pandemic began

He added: "There’s definitely more awareness of local businesses now and people are looking to support local business more. I think there’s more realisation now about how we go about life, it’s been a wake up call about what we can lose, especially when you look at the predicament with the hospitality industry.”

During lockdown, Barlow’s too had to rethink its business plan and began delivering much-needed fruit and veg boxes to its customers, many of whom were shielding. They received a boom in orders as people began to appreciate the businesses on their doorstep more, with neighbours Fulwell Butchers and Juliet’s Deli also noticing a rise in trade.

Kevin said: “The deliveries proved really popular, especially as a lot of our customers are older.”

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