Coronavirus and the impact on local independent businesses

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Last Thursday, the government announced a range of measures – backed by scientific advice and fact – to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Unfortunately, although businesses expected some knock-on effect, the public’s reaction to misinformation on social media has undermined this advice. Things have blown out of all proportion. And now, the media are fuelling the fire by publicising panic buying and spreading doom and gloom.

Having got through one of the worst trading periods in living memory – 2016 to 2019 – our members were once again starting to see an upturn in business. They now face an even greater threat, not only from the coronavirus but from the reaction of the consumer, the government and other businesses.

We are appealing to everyone to think of their local independent businesses, charities and communities during this time. It is more important than ever to buy locally; otherwise, our members and many thousands like them in the local area may not survive.

Multinational and FTSE 100 companies may have suffered a fall in their share prices, but most will survive and be there when the pandemic eases. It also appears that the government is going to bail out large companies. This will not be the case for our members and other local independents. Like most of us, small business owners do not sit on large piles of cash. All businesses need a continuous flow of cash – from customers to trade – for their business to survive. The most common reason for small businesses to fail is lack of cash-flow.

Independent businesses also do more within their communities to help others by supporting local charities and social enterprises. Our members also use other local independents, so this could have a huge knock-on effect on our local economy.

We are not asking you to take extra risks, but we are asking you to consider the facts and numbers in the public domain. Currently, 0.002% of the population have tested positive for the virus. Please, only self-isolate when you need to and assume that those who need to will do the same. Let’s not overreact and lock ourselves away in fear. If we do this the effect on the local economy and local life, in general, could be devastating. Isolation is not good for anyone, especially for people prone to depression. It’s not good to be alone or spend too much time away from others.

We are about to enter the tourist season, which is so important to us here in Norfolk. If visitors do not come, so many who depend on Easter to kick start the trading year will struggle. Please get out and support those businesses. Let’s all be a tourist in Norfolk and visit places on our doorstep.

To our members: we need to hear from you and we want to help. We have plenty of anecdotal evidence, but we want to hear your story, we want to publicise it. We need everyone to think locally.

Let’s carry on looking after our neighbours and friends during this time. If you need to talk, please do use the Buy Local Norfolk members’ Facebook page or email [email protected]. And please, let’s all support each other.

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