There’s actually a customer in my shop! How small business owners are feeling about opening again


By Alex Berry, Third Year Ancient History

There has never been a more exciting time to open up shop. It was not only us students who were thrilled the prospect about life to going ‘back to normal’ yesterday; non-essential business owners up and down the country were itching to dust off their tills, position their hand-sanitizing stations and throw open their doors to reunite with familiar loyal customers and hopefully welcome many new ones.

Here in Bristol, there are hundreds of independent small businesses to whom you should definitely pay a visit once the restrictions are lifted, from trendy barber shops to cute gift corners to local restaurants. In the wake of a financially challenging year for almost everyone, and with competition with big international brands at its most intense, it is so important to show support to these small businesses where we can.

The ‘death of the high street’ is certainly a frightening prospect for local business-people, and disappointing for tourists and residents of unique and exciting places like Bristol. With over 40 percent of the UK’s SMEs and small businesses fearing the risk of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses are certainly relying on the support of local customers and the help of the press.

The owner of local shoe store SoleLution spoke to us about the lockdown, commenting that ‘the support we have had from customers throughout has been amazing.  As a small business we wouldn't be here without that support and I for one definitely appreciate it,’ so it’s not all doom and gloom – loyal customers will return and there are certainly glimmers of hope, with things are looking promising for these independent shops.

While this is certainly an exciting time for potential shoppers as well as business owners, there will inevitably be some members of the community who feel apprehensive and perhaps nervous about returning to this arguably premature period of normality. However, many shops will have already adopted specific social distancing measures, with the owner of Clifton-based kitchenware shop, Kitchen Artillery commenting that in their store they will have ‘distancing tape on the floors, signs in the window asking for no more than 2 customer parties at a time, and hand-sanitiser at the shop door’ to ensure safe and relaxed shopping.

Shop local in Stokes Croft. | Epigram / Lucas Arthur

So what are the benefits of shopping local? Well for one, the maintenance of a local economy brings in tourists and money to your area, as well as an air of excitement and interest as you wander through the quaint Clifton Village or the buzzing cultural hub of Stokes Croft.

Secondly, by supporting local, smaller businesses as opposed to big brands/shopping online, you are likely to have less of a detrimental effect on the environment – here in Bristol particularly, lots of businesses pride themselves on their efforts towards sustainability with their product.

Finally, there is something unique and enjoyable about going into a shop and seeing the products with your own eyes. The novelty of wandering into a shop, or beauty salon or indeed beer-garden will take a while to wear off, and this is certainly something which will benefit small businesses in Bristol.

The owner of Kitchen Artillery noted that specifically with their products, ‘customers like to see and feel the products before purchasing so a local high-street shop is very important’ – we all know the feeling of ordering something online and then having to begrudgingly send something back because it’s not quite right, and this is definitely a key advantage of being able to shop in your local stores and retailers.

There are so many benefits to shopping local, and hopefully the exciting prospect of being able to enter and browse stores, combined with the loyalty and support of local customers will help these companies to thrive, and make the next few months a successful and positive time for these small businesses.

So whether you’re deciding which beer-garden to sit in, or where to buy your mates’ birthday presents, or even where to get your haircut, remember the value of supporting small businesses, as this is definitely something that definitely be incorporated into our lives as Bristol residents. And don’t forget your mask!

What are your favourite local shops to support now restrictions are lifting?

Featured Image: Epigram / Lucas Arthur