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Small Business Saturday: ‘High streets aren't dying’

Independent retailers across the UK welcomed Small Business Saturday last week, and branded the event a success in the face of tough trading on the high street.

The campaign celebrated its sixth year on 1 December, as independent retailers across the UK encouraged customers to shop locally and support small businesses.

This year the campaign launched its partnership with the Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, which provides free digital skills training with modules in entrepreneurship and social media. A bus tour across the UK offered mentoring from accountants in partnership with software provider Xero and advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, as the number of independent retailers trading online increases.

Deryane Tadd, owner of St Albans independent The Dressing Room, offered double loyalty points for those shopping on the day, and had a 16% uplift in sales for the week compared with 2017.

“Events like this are the only way to keep our unique high streets alive and thriving, and to have this backed by such big corporations like American Express really does give it some clout,” she said. “At a time when we all have to fight harder and tighten our purse strings, a positive message to portray to the public and the media is what we all need.”

The prime minister, chancellor, home secretary, foreign secretary and the mayor of London were among those to show their support for the event.

Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday, said: “It’s been brilliant. We trended on social media all day and had an incredible amount of government and retail support showing agreement on the importance of small businesses to our economy and communities.”

More than 90% of local councils supported Small Business Saturday, and 60 offered free parking on the day to drive footfall, and timed the switching on of Christmas lights with the event.

Small Business Saturday events were not restricted to bricks-and-mortar stores. Independent online fashion retailer The Nautical Company ran twelve days of offers in the run-up to 1 December.

Owner Sandrine Wyatt-Gonord said: “When you are a small business, you forget how stressful and lonely it is and within that community. It’s lovely to support each other and know that you’re not alone. On the day it was about supporting our fellow business by liking each other’s posts and retweeting their offers.

“Small businesses can offer product lines that you won’t find in your normal high street. If you want something different, you have to support something different.”

At a worrying time for high streets in the UK, Ovens remained positive in her outlook: “I don’t believe high streets are dying. We all have this incredible need to meet people face to face and engage with communities. There were some helpful moves in the Budget to support small businesses, and while it’s a short-term fix there is movement in the direction of a change.

“Online is here and the high street now is more about experience. It doesn’t mean its disappearing – we just need to think differently about it.”

The owner of one London-based womenswear independent agreed: “Small Business Saturday really highlights niche, speciality businesses like ours that create unique retail experiences. It’s so important to create a sense of community [through] in-store events like panel discussions and collaborating with neighbouring businesses.”

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  • As it's Panto season 'Oh yes they are!'

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