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Covid-19: The struggle for small businesses

The World is currently enduring a global pandemic, Covid-19.  The streets are deathly quiet and the shutters to all shops are closed. It is like we are living in ghost towns.  The only stores open are essential stores like DIY businesses and supermarkets. 

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. Small businesses and festivals would typically be preparing for their busiest time of year right now.  

On the 23rd of March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be going into lockdown. Businesses that were not considered essential had to close their doors (retail, restaurants, bars, etc) and this, in turn, has greatly affected the UK economy.  Watch the announcement of lockdown here

The people who have suffered the most are sole-traders and those who run small businesses and rely on customers to survive and ultimately grow 

In order to help businesses stay afloat in these unprecedented times, the government have offered a grant of up to £50,000 that can be applied for to fund those struggling during lock-down.  

Own a small business and need more information about the grant? Click here.

Wanting to find out about how small businesses have been affected, particularly those in York City Centre, we spoke to people whose businesses and events have been directly impacted by government lockdown measures. 

We first spoke with Michael Hjort, an organiser of York Chocolate Festival.  

The York Chocolate Festival was originally supposed to occur over the Easter period but was cancelled due to lock-down – affecting many small businesses whose chocolate was supposed to be sold at the event. View website here.

York chocolate festival 2019- photo by Michael Hjort

Here is what he had to say.  

 

Michael is just one of millions of small business owners across the country being directly affected by the outbreak. 

In York alone 95% of businesses are small or micro. The UK economy is so dependent on these small businesses to make money and keep the UK economy strong.

An example of other small businesses in York being affected by the pandemic are independent sister shops, ‘give the dog a bone‘ and ‘The Shop That Must Not Be Named.  

Cat Armitage, the general manager of give the dog a bone,’ opened up to us about how lockdown has affected her business. 

She said, “Our boss actually closed the shops before the government moved to close non-essential retail businesses, as the health and wellbeing of both out staff and customers is very important to us.” 

She also added, “All our staff have been furloughed, the one non-furloughed staff member is working from home, primarily focused on our retail website and we’ve grabbed the opportunity to build a brand-new website.” 

Yet, all is not bad as Cat explained. 

“Sales through The Shop That Must Not Be Named website have increased since lockdown and are stronger than ever.” 

This therefore suggests that some small businesses are actually taking lock-down as an opportunity to move retail online, attempting to make revenue this way when their stores are forcibly closed. 

No one knows how the UK and small businesses will react when lockdown is lifted. 

Will everyone immediately go shopping or will many still be too scared to go back outside in busy places? 

Will small businesses remain store only or begin to move more of their sales online? 

Cat says: “Post-lockdown life is full of uncertainty. Once we re-open, footfall will be a reflection of public confidence in the actions the government have taken, so we think footfall will increase steadily but gradually.” 

“Overall, we’re trying to stay optimistic. We’re hopeful that customers will return once they are able, and that those who can’t or may have found us online, will shop on our websites again in the future.” 

If you are interested and want to find out more about ‘Give The Dog A Bone’ click here.

The country is still in lockdown and no one is certain when life will return to normal, especially for smaller businesses 

However, the curve of the virus is flattening and it looks like the government are going to slowly lift lockdown restrictions – meaning businesses may be able to open their doors again soon and continue to make a living 

No matter what happens, this lockdown has reflected just how important businesses are to the economy, even the smaller, independent businesses.  

Article written by: Callum Belshaw, Olivia Wilson, Maddie Jenkins

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