Opinion: Shop local this Christmas to support vital independent Bedford businesses

Gemma Crawley-Roberts at The Arc

As news of lockdown 2.0 emerged on Halloween, many of Bedford’s bricks and mortar businesses were once again preparing to shut up shop, just as the busy Christmas trading season was ramping up.

Knowing that Bedford businesses would not take lockdown lying down, the BBC’s business analyst, Emma Simpson, headed here to report on the preparations owners were taking to ensure they can survive the coming weeks.

The timing of the latest lockdown couldn’t be worse for Bedford’s independent businesses, who rely heavily on sales during November and December.

They need that extra trade boost at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic and recession.

Many stayed open late on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to give customers extra time to pack in some last-minute shopping (or a haircut) and have been busy updating their websites and social media so they can trade online for the coming four weeks.

Spread the love

And it is vital that we do what we can to support these businesses while they’re closed so that we are able to visit them again when they reopen.

Bedford’s independent shops, cafes, restaurants, music venues, beauty therapists, bars, boutiques, hairdressers, sweet shops, florists, gift shops and gyms make our town unique.

With more independent businesses than Cambridge, we are rightly proud of the entrepreneurial spirit of our bartenders, bakers, barbers and boutique owners. They give life to Bedford and they deserve to succeed.

As yet another chain store announces closures, it’s the agile and unique #BedfordIndies who are flying the flag for the town centre.

So, wherever you can, shop online from local businesses and show them the love.

Follow them on social media, share their posts and use the tag #bedfordindies so others can find them.

As Emma Simpson told me, Bedford’s indie business owners are grafters: “One of the things I love about my job is the chance to meet lots of different businesses,” said Emma.

“I thought Bedford would be a good bet to test the mood on the eve of another lockdown. From my previous visits, I knew there were a good selection of small independent retailers to talk to.

“When I popped into see Gemma from The Arc, she was frantically trying to photograph all her stock and get it onto the website.

“Meanwhile Siobhan from the Cavalier Club Barber Shop was cramming as many haircuts as possible before shutting shop at 10pm that night.

“Ben from The Foresters Arms was getting ready to try food takeaways, for the first time, and possibly deliveries as well.

“It’s such an anxious time for anyone running a business right now. All the owners I spoke to were adapting in some way and trying to stay positive, encouraged by what sounded like a lot of local support.

“The pandemic is turbocharging change for our high streets. Just look at the news about Argos.

“The headlines on job losses from our big chains just keep on coming, with all the knock-on effects for the towns and communities where they are based.

“I fear there will be more closures to come, especially if the business rate holiday isn’t extended for retailers.”

Bedford Indie Christmas

At the Bedford Independent, we’ll be running a Bedford Indie Christmas campaign, highlighting gift ideas and showcasing the best of Bedford’s indies, plus a Festive countdown giveaway with unique prizes throughout December.

If your business would like to take part in the campaign or the competition, please get in touch with ads@bedfordindependent.co.uk.

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