Special feature: the vital role of independent businesses

Hampshire Chronicle: Give your local your support this Christmas Give your local your support this Christmas

THE past few years have been very tough ones and communities like ours all over Britain are feeling the impact with businesses struggling to stay afloat, higher unemployment and cuts to many services.

But what many of us don’t realise is that the choices we all make about where we spend our hard-earned cash can have a big effect on our local economy.

We all know about carbon footprints and Fairtrade products and many of us spend our money accordingly.

But do we ever stop to think about what effect that where we spend our money has on our local economy in Hampshire?

Thriving local trade is good for all of us – it makes our area a nicer place to live, means more businesses succeed, people are better off, they have more money to spend in the local economy and so it goes on...

Where you spend your money counts. Businesses that are independently owned, that create local employment and that use local suppliers all play a really powerful part in helping our local economy.

This week we’re focusing on how spending your money at independent shops and businesses helps make all of us in the Southampton area better off.

When you shop at a local, independently owned business, as much as 70p in every pound you spend stays in our local economy.

That’s because independent businesses tend to be owned by people who live locally, and so most of the profit gets spent or saved right here in Hampshire.

Shopkeeper Richard French from Southampton has seen first-hand just how vital local shopping is and how it can dramatically improve an area.

He is the seventh generation of the French family to run W.J. French & Son that has traded in Southampton since 1803, one of the oldest shoe shops in the country.

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The independent business specialises in fitting high quality shoes and although the Bedford Place shop stopped making shoes 20 years ago, repairs are still carried out in its custom- made workshop by local experts.

“For me, it feels like you’re a Southampton custodian rather than the average shopkeeper. It’s something of an institution,” says Mr French, 66, who started working at the shop aged nine.

“But if you want a variety of local, family-run shops to service the community in the best way it can, you need to support shops like ours.

“You can find the mainstream shops, the multiples, just about anywhere but it is the smaller, individual, personable shops which give character and individuality to our area and make the town special.”

Mr French employs around 30 local staff including young, disadvantaged or vulnerable people through a Life Chances scheme.

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He says the future of the business lies in the hands of the local shoppers.

“We can provide the service we have for generations but it’s their duty to support us to ensure our local economy thrives.”

So when you’re out and about doing your Christmas shopping, you have the power to choose where to spend your money so that more of the benefit stays right here helping our local economy to grow.

Because that makes all of us better off, and makes our local area a better one to live in for all of us.

Local backing sees baker’s cakes rise

Hampshire Chronicle:

HER business might not have a shop front but that doesn’t mean Hannah Pinchin underestimates her local links.

Hannah runs online business Hannah Banana Bakery and ships her vegan sweet treats across the country.

But the local customers are the backbone of her success.

“They are what keeps my business going,” says the 32-year-old who loves nothing more than her regulars popping over to her Shirley home for collections.

Hannah founded her business two years ago after a friend asked her to make a vegan wedding cake. Now has won two national awards beating renowned stores in London and getting record-breaking Christmas orders.

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And it’s all thanks to her local customers.

“I’m busier than ever and winning more awards than ever.

“My local area is extremely important. We need your money to survive!

“I’ve already bought some C h r i s t m a s presents from small local businesses and will continue to do so as I want to help t h e m succeed too!”

'You just can't beat independent shops'

Hampshire Chronicle:

FOR mum Jane Gale and her daughters Sue Gale and Maggie Hillier, people who consciously choose independent stores are the key to their success.

They launched The Old Apothecary in Lyndhurst fitted with original Victorian memorabilia in 2000 where they sell their own handmade toiletries.

In 14 years the family has seen many independent shops come and go and rely on local customers to keep the village thriving.

“In most high streets with all the big chain stores, you could be anywhere. But all the shops in Lyndhurst are independent. They give individuality to an area. It’s more interesting for the shoppers because the products are unique,” Sue explains.

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Maggie adds: “Support the local, independent shops.

Independent retailers are the shops how they used to be, and you just can’t beat them.”

Your top firms?
Which are your top independent shops and businesses that other readers should know about?
What do you think are the benefits of shopping at independent shops and independent businesses?
Tell us how you’re supporting our #localeconomy. Comment below or @dailyecho on Twitter.

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