As Wales finds its way post-lockdown, the simple and devastating fact is, almost one in five smaller firms believe they couldn’t survive another lockdown and would be forced out of business forever.

The reality is that any decisions made by our government will decide the future of our local businesses.

Research commissioned by VISA and conducted by Opinium Research in the middle of lockdown last year, suggests there could be a shift in these figures.

  •  78% of shoppers in Cardiff are shopping with local small businesses as much or more frequently since lockdown lifted, both in person and online 
  • 72% of consumers in Wales says that shopping locally makes them happy as supporting local shops makes me feel good about where my money is going 
  • 84% of consumers in Wales agree that their local high street needs the support of the community to survive

Our high streets have been particularly badly hit over the last 18 months as enforced time at home, drew more of us to shop online. At the height of our lockdown The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the amount of goods sold fell by 18.1%. Clothing sales also halved as many High Street shops were shut under the lockdown measures introduced by the government.

Online shopping as a proportion of all retail reached a record high of 30.7%, the ONS said. All types of shop, other than those selling clothing or household goods, saw record amounts being spent with them online. But the pick-up in online shopping failed to offset the collapse in spending on the High Street.

Richard Lim is the Chief Executive of Retail Economics, he said that the shift to online had benefitted……………

“Those retailers with the slickest e-commerce operations and who managed to cope with the shift in demand. Online grocery retailers were one of the major beneficiaries as they worked at an incredible pace to boost capacity.”

Whilst the picture certainly wasn’t a bright one, it now seems there could be a small miracle on the high street, which requires us all to stay LOCAL AND LOYAL to keep our favourite small businesses afloat.

The research from Visa shows there is mixed sentiment towards the future of the high street with both consumers and small business owners, tentative about our local town centres. Four in five shoppers (84%) believe our high streets need support to pull through, while 38% of small businesses say that the following months are crucial to their survival.  

A massive nine in ten (95%) consumers are worried about the future of our Welsh high street, higher than anywhere in the UK, with an increase in empty shops and premises (82%) and job losses in the community (58%) topping concerns about our towns. 

Nevertheless, it seems here in Wales, consumers are determined to play their part in supporting our local businesses with 80% shopping as frequently or more frequently with small businesses since lockdown lifted, and 73% admitting they could personally do more to support small businesses by shopping locally, either in person or online. 

The research from Visa also revealed that half (46%) of UK small business owners say that if everyone in their local community spent just £5 extra a week with small businesses either on or offline, it would help them to survive in the long term. 

As for UK small businesses, they remain cautiously optimistic about the future, with over half (53%) confident they will bounce back over the next year. Over one in five (22%) small business owners are not confident about the future.

There comes a point when figures and talking need to be replaced with positive action, and that is precisely what is happening right across South Wales.

To give local communities a boost at this critical time, Visa is partnering with Totally Locally, a grassroots initiative offering free Town Kits to small business owners and community groups looking to work together to protect the future of independent high streets. 

Together they are encouraging small business owners to sign up to ‘FIVER FEST’, a celebration of small businesses and local communities. The event is running right now, through to the 26th June. Businesses will be coming together to host £5 special offers, as a way of thanking communities for supporting the local high street. With three in five (59%) saying they could spend £5 extra a week with small businesses, Totally Locally and Visa are calling on all of us to make a change to our spending habits and shop locally where we can.

Dominic White is Head of Merchants and Acquirers at Visa, he told us………..

“We know that 2020 has been exceptionally challenging for small businesses so we’re doubling down on our commitment of support. Visa is proud to work with Totally Locally in its mission to bring communities together, and we encourage all small businesses to sign up to Fiver Fest. The next three months will be such an important period for small businesses, so we are urging the nation to back the spirit of Fiver Fest and shop local, either online or offline, to help communities recover.”

Dominic White – Visa

Chris Sands, Founder of Totally Locally told us……..

“We’re pleased to see how Fiver Fest has grown over the past couple of years and we hope that through the partnership with Visa more consumers and businesses will be a part of it than ever before. It may not feel like a big contribution but that’s why we say just diverting £5 a week to small businesses will make a huge difference. If we all make this small change in our spending habits, it will go a long way to reviving our communities.” 

Chris Sands – Totally Local Founder

Visa’s partnership with Totally Locally is part of its ongoing Where You Shop Matters campaign, a long-term commitment that recognises the essential role that small and independent businesses play in our communities. Visa has been drawing on its network of industry, technology, and community partners to provide much needed assistance to the small businesses as they rebuild for recovery. 

Totally Locally is also creating a virtual shopping experience helping towns to get local businesses online – launched initially in Hebden Bridge, Leek and Crickhowell, with many more towns to follow. 

For more information, just go here for a list of towns taking part or indeed if you want your town to join in. FIVER FEST

  • Four in five shoppers (84%) admit local high streets need support while four in five (80%) are shopping with local small businesses as or more frequently since lockdown lifted, both in person and online  
  • Despite this support, the next three months are crucial to the survival of nearly two fifths (38%) of small businesses in Wales 
  • Visa has partnered with grassroots initiative Totally Locally to sponsor Fiver Fest and together they are calling on consumers to divert £5 of their weekly spend to support local businesses in store or online

Here in Wales businesses in these areas are already on board with the scheme.

  • Barry
  • Caldicot
  • Crickhowell
  • Llambed (Lampeter)
  • Mold
  • Morriston
  • Penarth

In Penarth they are linking it to their own rewards scheme, which is already a great success. Find out more in our feature here. PENARTH

In Barry they are big believers in the ‘Shop Local’ philosophy. By all accounts it was a huge success in February. All local businesses in Barry can take part and celebrate the fantastic small businesses and shops, many run by families or individuals, but ALL contributing massively to the economy of the UK and the wellbeing of the town. To find out more check out our feature here. BARRY

In Crickhowell, which is always a popular stopping point for visitors wishing to pick up something truly local. They too are on board with the scheme.

Emma Corfield-Walters runs BOOKISH, which celebrates 10 years since the opening of the shop. Originally, the store started at a small high street and has moved to much bigger premises, now boasting 3 floors including a cafe, bar and events space. The business has been situated in Crickhowell for the past three years and their philosophy is simple: they want to connect people to books, help children to develop a lifelong love of reading and encourage imaginative play.

Emma told us……..

“Since being part of the Crickhowell community, it’s brilliant to see everyone supporting one another, when doing something as a team, we are stronger together. We are always on the lookout for things that are not happening in the area and one of the things we did during lockdown was a monthly cinema club and hosting choir groups to cheer everyone up. We like to think of ourselves as a community hub as we host up to 200 events a year, from literary festivals and school events to many more community knitting groups, happening in our loft.”

Image: PA

In addition to this, we are optimistic about the future and it is great to see how the community has made a difference. We also appreciate how shoppers have become more ethical in their shopping and adapted to online during this time. Our twitter page blew up because we kept in contact with the community on social which helped people to follow our story, help our sales and even attract international visitors.”

PURPLE FLAMINGO in Crickhowell is a vintage inspired boutique stocking funky, alternative clothing, accessories, and Irregular Choice shoes. In 2017, owner, Kazryel Bolwell, initially opened an online store where the business grew quickly therefore the first boutique was opened in 2018. Fast forward to 2020, the store moved to the Crickhowell high street and despite the town’s devastating floods, this period was successful for the team.

Since lockdown, the three things that changed most about the business included the increase of online sales, more local people discovering the business and the increase of local product stockists too which is key for Kazryel, supporting the local community is what keeps the people of Crickhowell together.

“Since being in Crickhowell, the community has a wonderful spirit especially when it comes to support. With lockdown, the community pulled together and adapted to the situation by helping one another strive so I am very optimistic about the future. The community keeps us going and it’s the same for them too, during a difficult period, the people of Crickhowell saw businesses make such an effort from local deliveries to keeping in contact through socials so this has really propelled their need and extra push to support local businesses as we are here for them and they’re here for us.”

This video is a few years old but the principles are still the same….

It’s worth mentioning that Totally Locally Towns have won High Street of The Year Award in Crickhowell in 2019, Hebden Bridge in 2018 and Belper in 2014. Other Totally Locally towns have won national and regional awards. So perhaps now really is the time to get involved.