From the floor stickers on the street and the COVID information posters on the lampposts, to the hand sanitiser stations at regular intervals and the masked shop staff counting customers through their door, our towns and local centres look and feel very different this year.
However the changes to our high streets aren’t just physical – businesses have had to adapt and in some cases diversify their services in order to survive the pandemic thus far.
This year’s Small Business Saturday has therefore never been more important. Independent businesses across Solihull are set to be showcased on social media as part of the celebrations for the national ‘Small Business Saturday’ campaign.
Launched in 2010, the campaign promotes the message ‘shop local’ and raises the importance of small businesses to communities and local economies. It will be celebrated this year on Saturday 5 December. Local businesses are encouraged to use the hashtag #SmallBizSatUK and follow the Small Business Saturday UK activity on Facebook (Small Business Saturday UK), Twitter (@SmallBizSatUK) and Instagram (SmallBizSatUK) to showcase special offers, events and their goods and services.
The Council is also encouraging residents to shop local where they can via the ongoing ‘support local’ campaign across the Council Instagram channel and the Solihull for Success social media channels.
In addition, residents will see “digivans”out across the borough this weekend reinforcing the “shop safely” and “support local” messages. These have been funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Reopening High streets Safely Fund.
If you are a business and require advice and support during these unprecedented times, provision is available for all parts of the industry with various grants and loans, alongside business advice. This includes access to a series of free webinars funded by the ERDF programme. The next, on Thursday 10 December, will look at the financial support available such as COVID-19 grants, Job Support Scheme and Bounce Back loans. Book to attend here.
Residents can also find out about independent businesses via the Homedine website which was started by a couple from Solihull during the pandemic to help local independent businesses get through lockdown. They used their wedding fund, which was cancelled due to COVID, to set up the website which features over 100 local businesses.
Cllr Karen Grinsell, Deputy Leader of Solihull:
“We have some great towns and local centres which make the borough a great place to live, work and visit. Supporting Small Business Saturday is a great way to rediscover what local and independent businesses have to offer. It has been a tough year for the retail sector and they need our support more than ever.
“If this last year has taught us anything, it is what is most important: friends, family, community and kindness. Now that we can once again venture out to the shops, I’m urging us all to do the right thing, be sensible, check ahead to see if businesses are operating longer opening hours so you can plan your visit, and if you do have to queue for car parking and to enter the shops please be patient with staff and your fellow shoppers.
“Our towns and local centres are ready to welcome you back safely. Although we’ve had to do things differently this year, they are as ever, dressed for the festive season with Christmas lights across the borough including the Council’s in Shirley.
“Rest assured our businesses are open and on hand to help with your Christmas shopping this year, but if we want to keep them open we must support them safely. Remember to wear a face covering unless exempt, keep your distance from others and stick to the two-metre rule where you can. Please only touch items you would like to buy and pay by card where possible. And don’t forget to wash your hands before you leave the house and as soon as you get home. This will all help to keep everybody safe.”