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Click and connect… with your local community

By Alistair Kellie
18 August 2020

By Alistair Kellie, Managing Partner

Cycling down to London this morning I passed a big sign in Barnet promoting ‘LoveBarnet’. Rather than being a misplaced banner to a music festival, this is an initiative established by an enterprising group of local residents who are doing their bit to support local businesses with a digital high street. Is this something we can expect to see more of over the coming months?

One of most striking aspects of the lockdown phase of the pandemic was our willingness and desire to support local businesses – a topic we’ve covered regularly in this Newsletter.  But as restrictions have eased we are choosing to click for our shopping rather than taking a walk down the High Street?  Whilst its long been perceived that the local butcher, baker and brewer were neglected in favour of the more convenient (and cheaper) supermarkets the reality was often more complex with, in many spots, superstores driving footfall which then supported independent or specialist retailers.  However we’ve now got used to buying our groceries online as well as the ease of online shopping via Amazon.  

On the day that M&S announced that 7,000 jobs would go across its shops and head offices, UK high streets are continuing to bear the brunt of the first economic wave of the virus.  The retailer reported that sales of clothing and homeware were down 38.5 percent, whilst the food business had seen a rise of 2.5 percent over the same period.  The M&S statement confirms, if anyone ever doubted it, that there has been a seismic change in our behaviour over the last six months: “It is clear that there has been a material shift in trade…” and that “…it is too early to predict with precision where a new post Covid sales mix will settle, we must act now to reflect this change”.

At the same time, Amazon’s profits soared in the second quarter of 2020 as locked-down shoppers drove sales 40 percent higher, year-on-year.  The ‘secret’ to Amazon’s success has been to make e-commerce seamless and simple so that within a couple of clicks we can buy anything from a bottle of gin to a jacuzzi.   

Pity the independent retailer in a market town or a quiet city high street who is desperately trying to keep a business going in the face of high fixed costs and falling consumer demand.  Whilst many have accelerated their e-commerce capabilities, they are still dependent on their local community to provide digital and physical footfall.  

Which brings us back to LoveBarnet.  It’s a great initiative and hopefully one that is being replicated in other communities.  So rather than clicking on that Amazon or Ocado order, why not first check to see if you can buy local (either physically or online) and support your high street.