In these most difficult of times, it is vital to support our local independent shops.
During the current crisis, neighbourhood shops have proven to be a crucial part of our communities, both in Brighton and Hove and across the country.
They have responded to the problems and shortages caused by the lockdown brilliantly when many larger shops have struggled to deal with the demand for deliveries and been unable to help customers in isolation.
Against this backdrop of corner shops, bakers, butchers, etc, going above and beyond to make sure their customers can access the supplies they need, it is great to welcome a new independent trader – Organic Earth – to Central Hove.
The store opened its doors – in Church Road near Hove Town Hall – for the first time only last week.
This organic shop and café is bringing organic fruit and vegetables, bread and organic meat and gluten-free products as well as a wide selection of high-quality vegan and vegetarian products to the area.
It also stocks natural products for health and personal care and a wide range of high-quality supplements.
Demand for organic food is at its highest for more than a decade, according to major retailers.
Significantly, sales of organic produce appear to be rising across all sectors, not just fruit and vegetables.
Independent retailers and home delivery box scheme companies have helped boost organic sales.
The present coronavirus pandemic is very damaging to the economy of Brighton and Hove, as it is more widely of course. In particular, it is likely to cause hardship for many of our small businesses.
As a Brighton and Hove Labour councillor, and part of an administration that is prioritising “community wealth building”, I want to support our local firms to thrive and be successful, ensuring that we strive towards an inclusive local economy that works for all.
Brighton and Hove City Council recently approved protections for independent shops as well as the pubs and local music venues that give Brighton and Hove some of its character.
The protections were put forward as part of the council’s planning blueprint for the next ten years – known as City Plan Part Two – and are intended to help independent shops and businesses.
Shopping at an independent store is a long-term investment in our local economy and, both in lockdown and coming out of it, I want to encourage residents to stick with supporting their home city by continuing to use Brighton and Hove’s amazing small businesses.
Every £1 spent with an independent shop or locally-owned business based in Brighton and Hove is worth up to £8 compared to the same money spent with a multinational firm where the profit ends up far away.
Spending locally builds community wealth as the money keeps circulating here, to the benefit of everyone.
Millions of pounds would go into our local economy, meaning more jobs, more facilities and a better place to live.
Small businesses are the largest providers of jobs nationally and independent local retailers play a vital role in the local economy by creating local jobs.
If more people are shopping and working in the local area, then that helps other businesses too – and so even more of them can generate employment, which in turn means there is more money in the local economy, which can help other shops.
Remember – a small decision every time you head to the shops can make a real difference to the entire neighbourhood.
As local shops are found within walking distance, rather than a drive away, more people shopping locally would also considerably reduce air pollution and traffic, something we have all now come to appreciate.
Local shops are the life and soul of our communities. They provide great customer service and local knowledge, unusual and original products and services – and attract people to the area – which all have a positive knock-on effect for everyone.
Popping to your local shop has now become the norm and never has it been more important.
Councillor Gary Wilkinson is a Labour member of Brighton and Hove City Council. He represents Central Hove.