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.

Updated: 15 January 2021

There’s no doubt that the many independent bookshops, florists, jewellers and boutiques that make our towns and villages vibrant and unique, need our support.

Being closed on and off over many months, means that sales have often relied solely on internet purchases - which not all shops can offer.

Kirsty McGregor, founder of consultancy, the Corporate Finance Network, says: “Our local businesses need us to stand by them more than ever. They are the lifeblood of our community. If our country loses many of its small businesses, it will become a much duller place.”

Here are seven ways you can show support to local businesses:

1. Shop local

Whatever is on your shopping list – groceries or perhaps a treat for yourself or the family - try to buy locally first. When shop doors are closed, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make purchases - many shops remain open online and provide delivery or a contact-free pickup.

Check websites and local Facebook or Nextdoor groups to find out who is offering what. When shop doors can be open, be prepared for a little wait to get inside where the number of customers is 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 is certainly welcome in most households. Pubs and restaurants have learnt to adapt and offer takeaway services when restrictions dictate they cannot open. Check out their websites or phone to see what they can offer.

When restrictions allow places to welcome guests to eat in, you might not be able to make a trip out if you’re shielding or simply don’t have a babysitter. So make the most of takeaway or - as my local offers - a ready-meal style service that’s prepared but not cooked, so you can buy in advance and eat when it suits.

3. Pay now, enjoy later vouchers

Several cities have launched schemes to support local, independent businesses in the hospitality and events sectors, which remain under lockdown.

The Pay It Forward scheme lets individuals pay for products or services now, which can then be delivered at a later date. That includes booking meals, a room for the night or a ticket to an event with any business that has registered.

Many hotels, which are among the hardest hit by the many restrictions since March 2020, are offering buy now, stay later vouchers - a great gift whether the hotels are open or not. You could contact your favourite place directly, or even find somewhere new on Guestline’s website, which offers venues from small guest houses to pubs with rooms to luxury hotels with vineyards.

4. Join the streaming sensation

Many yoga teachers and vocal coaches have taken to the likes of Zoom to continue classes by streaming them. Some ask 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.

5. Stock up on birthday presents

For family and friends that have birthdays coming up in the next few months – try to make sure your spend goes into the pockets of small businesses.

Very early on in lockdown I spotted a tweet by a local dressmaker that said she was thrilled someone had bought one of her designs for a friend’s birthday, as it meant she could go out that afternoon to do a food shop.

If you don’t want to choose a specific item, many local firms are offering gift cards. This includes restaurants and bars. You could also investigate what local bakeries and small restaurants are offering. Some in my area are delivering birthday afternoon teas complete with all the trimmings as an alternative to a more obvious choice of sending flowers.

6. Give 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. It can be a huge help to spread the word of how their business has adapted to life during the changing restrictions and to reach new audiences.

Shout loud and proud about their great efforts to provide a safe shopping environment for loyal customers when doors are able to open. Share local restaurant delivery menus, links of streamed classes and any offers you’ve spotted that might not have been seen by others.

7. Get those odd jobs done

Supporting local business is not just about helping those with a shop presence. There are plenty of tradespeople who are still permitted to work, whatever the level of restrictions in place. Now you’re at home more, either through restrictions or simply because you’re still working from home, it’s a good time to make sure you keep everything in tip top condition - though making sure of course to stay safe and respect local distancing or other health advice.

Keep an eye out for offers on local Facebook groups. I’ve been meaning to contact a local firm offering to clear gutters for a bargain £30. 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. A word of caution - do beware of social media scams and make sure you know all the facts before you buy - always take time to think things through and if an offer looks too good to be true - it’s usually a scam.

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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