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Holly Thomas is a freelance journalist covering personal finance and property. Here, she takes a look at practical things we can do to support local businesses during the festive season.

Updated: 27 November 2020

With Christmas just round the corner, the independent bookshops, florists, jewellers and boutiques that help make our towns and villages vibrant and festive, will no doubt be relieved at news that high street shops in parts of England will be able to reopen from 2nd December.

Kirsty McGregor, founder of consultancy, the Corporate Finance Network, says: “Our local businesses need us to stand by them more than ever. They’re the lifeblood of our community. We need to preserve and support them however we can, until they can step back up to a normal level of trading again.”

Here are seven ways you can show support to local businesses this holiday season.

1. Shop local

If you need to buy something, try to buy locally first. Just because some doors are shut on your high street – and might stay that way for a while longer - it doesn’t mean the shop or service hasn’t adapted its business behind the scenes. Many remain open online (or have added an online channel) and are providing delivery or a contact-free pickup.

Check websites and local Facebook groups to find out who is offering what. Equally, if you decide to venture out and see who is open and selling tinsel and Christmas trees, be prepared for a wait to get into the shop as the number of customers inside at one time will be limited. Business owners will greatly appreciate your patience.

2. Treat yourself to a takeaway or delivery

A night off cooking (and scrubbing pots and pans) will be welcome in most households. If your local pub or restaurants isn’t able to open in December due to local restrictions, check to see if they’re operating a collection and or delivery service.

Most have information on their websites or you can enter your postcode and search My Local Delivers to pick up a Sunday Roast or crate of craft beer. Maybe even some Christmas pudding.

3. Pay now, enjoy later vouchers

Some cities have launched schemes to support local, independent businesses in the hospitality and events and arts sectors, which remain under lockdown. In Manchester, the Pay It Forward scheme lets individuals pay for products or services now, which can then be delivered once businesses return to normal or near-normal operation. That includes booking meals, a room for the night or a ticket to an event with any business that has registered.

4. Join the streaming sensation

Many yoga teachers and vocal coaches have been taking to the likes of Zoom to continue classes by streaming them. Some are asking for a voluntary donation rather than a set fee, so if your income has taken a hit and things are tight, you might still be able to afford it. If your favourite service is not already offering it, ask them if they would consider doing so until they are able to open doors again.

Online marketplace platforms such as Pedddle (this is not a typo) are also running virtual Christmas fairs, bringing together a selection of small businesses. You can browse and buy from your sofa while enjoying a cup of tea or homemade mulled wine.

And on that note, if you’ve never made mulled wine before, there may well be a Zoom class or Instagram Live session you could join and learn from. Similarly, if you’ve always wanted to make your own mince pies or Christmas wreath, now could be your chance to try.

5. Throw a virtual Christmas party

Usually, the holiday season is packed with parties and celebrations, often hosted at a local pub or gin bar. To keep supporting bars, restaurants and distilleries that remain restricted or closed, why not throw a virtual party for a few family and friends and arrange for a bottle of wine or a few beers to be delivered in advance?

Tayport Distillery delivers spirits, along with mixers and limited edition Rose Gin mince pies, while Mad Yank Brewery delivers ales and stouts in all sorts of flavours, from passionfruit to toasted marshmallow. Alternatively, many local pubs are offering take away beverages alongside their meals to go.

You could also investigate what local bakeries and small restaurants are offering. Some in my area are delivering afternoon teas complete with all the trimmings.

6. Give festive shout-outs on social media

A gesture that won’t cost you a penny is to follow your favourite businesses on social media, and like and share their interesting posts. If a shop is open, shout loud and proud about the great efforts being made to provide a safe shopping environment for customers. If it’s doing take-outs or click and collects - tell the world.

Share local restaurant delivery menus, links of streamed classes and any offers you’ve spotted that might not have been seen by others. If you’re not camera-shy, you might want to go a step further and post a video about where you shop.

7. Get those odd jobs done

Supporting local business is not just about those with a high street shop. There are plenty of tradespeople suffering a huge loss of income. Keep an eye out for their offers on local Facebook groups. Dig out (or write out) the list of things you need doing around the house – in or out – and find someone local who can help, all with respect to social distancing, of course.

Let’s all help support our local businesses and spread the Christmas cheer.

The above article is intended as general information and does not constitute advice in any way. You should take independent advice if you have any questions about your specific circumstances.

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