Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Over the past few months My Virtual Neighbourhood, a free platform showcasing local, independent businesses, has helped thousands of London businesses and the team have got to know many small traders well. Its founder, former government economist Basil Fansa, gives his thoughts on the huge changes that could secure the future for small traders.
The greener, more convenient way to shop!
What’s more convenient than next-day delivery with Amazon? Same-day delivery on foot or by bike from a business in your neighbourhood that adds so much to community life and sources ethical, local goods!
This week The Times newspaper reported that the government is considering imposing a mandatory delivery charge, similar to that imposed for plastic bags, on all Amazon-style consumer deliveries in a bid to cut toxic emissions.
Whilst car traffic in Central London has decreased in recent years, light goods vehicles have increased in the capital, due largely to the rise in e-commerce. For the eco-minded, shopping local can help reduce the number of polluting vans in our city.
COVID-19 has motivated small businesses to future-proof themselves
These last few months have been gruelling for everyone – particularly for small retailers and hospitality businesses, many of which have struggled to stay afloat.
But, as they dust themselves off and begin to emerge into a weird hinterland between lockdown and real life, the adaptations they’ve made to their businesses may have altered the trading landscape forever.
Businesses which never delivered and traded solely via bricks and mortar have sorted out their web presence and many are offering to deliver same-day within their neighbourhoods. See our London-wide Independent Gift Directory.
Challenging the status quo to get costs down
Small high street businesses which have endured crippling rent rises over the years are now challenging landlords to offer a fairer deal – difficult negotiations, which some traders have been putting off, have been sparked into action because of the outbreak. Revenues will likely be down for the foreseeable future, so if businesses are to survive, they will need to get their costs down and rent is a major cost. If landlords don't work in partnership with businesses they will be faced with empty units and will have helped secure the fate of their tenants.
Building on good will
Demand for the likes of Amazon will continue but there’s a growing fire in the belly of consumers to protect their neighbourhood shops and restaurants and it’s being matched by a willingness of those businesses to adapt nimbly and offer what people need.
Locals have been moved by the lengths businesses have gone to survive and to keep serving their communities and that has earned lot of good will which should translate into custom.
Shopping-local online is key to the survival of small businesses
The easing of lockdown poses massive challenges for all businesses, particularly those with a high-street presence. As the government support dries up, traders are left with the uncertainty of how to make enough to cover their overheads while social-distancing rules significantly reduce the number of shoppers they can accommodate. There's also the risk of staff being required to isolate if they test positive for the virus.
A big part of the answer lies in click and collect, local deliveries, actively engaging digitally with customers and a heavier reliance on local people making a concerted effort to shop local.
The last word goes to the Queen of Shops!
Advising small businesses recently, Mary Portas, said: “Get your digital sorted, communicate, connect, create communities – don’t think of them as consumers, think of them as your customers and your local community and keep talking to them!”
Find out which independent businesses near you are open or delivering to their communities: Click HERE to find your virtual neighbourhood
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