Shop Local: Christmas could be ‘make or break’ time for Ipswich shops, town warned
PUBLISHED: 06:30 19 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:27 19 October 2020
Christmas could be a “make or break” time for independent shops in Ipswich following this year’s Covid-19 crisis, a town leader has warned.
This week, this newspaper launched its Shop Local campaign - a use-it-or-lose-it plea to shoppers to consider independent traders and businesses this Christmas and beyond.
A poll of 200 regional firms by this newspaper for the campaign also showed 77% are relying on a strong festive trading period this year.
The campaign is a bid to bolster our beloved high streets and spark a wave of online spending with local retailers at a time when many need it most, after the coronavirus pandemic forced many of them to close in lockdown and hit their footfall throughout the summer.
Terry Hunt, chairman of Ipswich Vision, also believes this festive period could be key for our local independents. He said: “It is so important they have a good Christmas, otherwise some of them won’t be here by January.”
He added: “As far as shops as are concerned, especially our independent shops – Christmas really could be a make-or-break period for them.
“If Christmas doesn’t work, then the whole year really has been an utter disaster.”
Businesses could go bust
Lawra Stubbs, who runs the Miss Quirky Kicks crystal, homeware and American candy shop in Orwell Place, said she fears for the future of fellow independents nationwide.
Miss Stubbs said: “The shop really has been quiet – it isn’t the same as it was.
“Everyone is turning to online and it’s all you hear from people – and this is why the high street is dying.
“I honestly think this Christmas is going to be hard. All small businesses, not just mine, rely on the Christmas rush, trade from January to March is always diabolical, so obviously we rely on a good November and December trade to get us through the start of the year.
“I think a lot of independent shops will go bust in January. The idea of thinking ‘if we can’t survive Christmas, then how can we survive anything?’ is terrifying.”
Still room for optimism
Wendy Childs, who runs Maud’s Attic in St Peter’s Street, said she has been “pleasantly surprised” by support in recent weeks, but echoed the calls to support local independents.
“We have to take things week by week,” Ms Childs said. “But I refuse to be anything other than optimistic, as you have to be.
“I have been very pleasantly surprised how many people have come in and understand the situation independent businesses are in. It is really encouraging as these are difficult times.
“Footfall is down, there is no doubt of that – but overall, I am so thankful of people making the effort.
“Independent shops offer a service not available elsewhere – or even online – we go that extra mile all the time. That is where our survival lies.”
Miss Stubbs added she too has seen optimism among customers when they visit – and said even coming in to browse makes a difference.
She said: “It makes me so happy though when people come through the doors – I had one woman come in who told me she couldn’t necessarily afford to shop but wanted to as she doesn’t want to see us go. It is so sweet.”
Safety remains a priority
Mr Hunt added a lot of work has gone into ensuring the town centre is safe for shoppers and staff alike.
He said: “First and foremost, people’s health and safety must be of paramount importance and people should only do what they feel comfortable doing.
“Here in Ipswich, Ipswich Central and the local authority have done all they can to make sure the town centre is as safe as it can be – I am in the vulnerable category, but I still feel safe and comfortable when shopping while wearing my face covering.”
“Do what you feel is right for you,” Mr Hunt added. “But if you can then please do support our town centre and our independents, who offer such an imaginative and wide range of products, especially at Christmas time.”
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