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Some small businesses in Bedfordshire have managed to thrive despite the pandemic but others have not been so fortunate.

And after a very difficult two years for small businesses of on-and-off lockdowns, closures and restrictions caused by coronavirus and other factors, they need our backing like never before.

Therefore, to mark Small Business Saturday on December 4, we are asking our readers to #ThinkWhereYouShop and back independent traders as much as possible this Christmas.

BedfordshireLive has joined forces with InYourArea, our sister local news platform, and Down Your High Street to encourage everyone to shop consciously this year and support smaller businesses.

READ MORE: Things to do in Bedfordshire from BedfordshireLive

Down Your High Street provides an online shop window for local bricks and mortar retailers all over the UK, so it’s never been easier to spend with independent businesses near and far.

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Chief executive Dan Whytock said: “For us, supporting local is all about the future.

“When local stores closed due to the pandemic it was a scary reality of what life could be like if high street shops were no more.

“Nowhere to meet friends, nowhere to grab a coffee, and nothing unique about where you live.

“Christmas is the most important season in retail, where 60% of a retailer’s sales are made, a vital part of their cashflow to cover the cost of local staff, rents, and rates. If we don’t use our local shops during this period, we really do risk losing the heart of our communities.”

Pub sports and vape business AS Pro Sports, who have two shops in Bedfordshire, have been forced to close one branch since the pandemic.

While the Shefford store is still doing well despite the pandemic, their Toddington branch, near Luton, is closing down on Saturday (December 4).

“We were forced to close over lockdown as it non-essential. Since we have reopened we have barely any business so we have no choice but to close the Toddington shop as it is not financially viable,” said the owner.

“Over the pandemic we offered free delivery to both Toddington and Shefford to compete with online businesses but it’s affected out Toddington shop more than our Shefford shop.”

Before the pandemic the Toddington shop used to be busy most days but now very people are in the shop.

“We’re doing really well in Shefford and it’s continued to be a popular business with the locals,” the owner added.

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However, some local businesses have managed to thrive under these harsh conditions, such as GCH Fishmongers in Bedford.

GCH Fishmongers on Nenham Street is a family business run by Caroline Hooper and her husband, with assistance from her sister and sons.

Caroline said that since the pandemic they have had to “diversify the business”.

She said: “We do a lot of wholesale but they shut down last year so we had to change how we operate the business.

“The retail side went up and we diversified into home deliveries and built an online shop and that kept us going.

“We took on a load of new customers – some who are still with us now. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s had a positive effect on the business.”

The UK Government’s Small Business Minister Paul Scully backed the campaign.

He said: “Small businesses make our communities thrive, and we want to see people getting out there and shopping local as safely as possible this Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.

“We’re backing small businesses and helping them plan for the long term, including through our Help to Grow: Digital and Help to Grow: Management schemes, and I would encourage any ambitious business leader to explore the range of government support that is available.”

In a nationwide survey carried out by InYourArea last month, more than 80 per cent of people said it’s important to them to have a thriving local high street nearby.

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Thirty-six per cent of the 1,973 respondents said they prefer to shop at smaller independent businesses in-person for non-essential items but 54 per cent of people said they prefer the likes of Amazon and Ebay for online non-essential purchases.

There was an even split between people who believed local high streets as we know them have a strong future (34 per cent) and those who think online shopping will dominate (32 per cent) – 34 per cent said they weren’t sure.

Almost 70 per cent of people said local businesses should have been given more support throughout the pandemic.

Tom Gibbon, Editor of InYourArea, said: “InYourArea is all about helping communities to thrive, and healthy high streets are really important to that.

“#ThinkWhereYouShop puts a little extra limelight on smaller, independent businesses who have been through an unbelievably tough time and need our backing now.

“So please do consider seeking out these traders to help fill your Christmas stockings this year – it makes all the difference and helps to keep your local economy moving.

Get 10% off at independent businesses online

There’s even more reason to #ThinkWhereYouShop in the next few weeks too – Down Your High Street are offering 10% across their site with an exclusive code.

Just enter SMALLBIZ10 at the checkout after choosing your items.

Do you try to shop at local businesses? Sign up here and let us know in the comments below.



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