'The high street is dying': Small businesses call for support in crucial Christmas period

Beau De Fleur

Owner of Elm Park florist Beau De Fleur, Kenzie Dredge, 21. - Credit: Beau De Fleur

Small business owners in Romford and Elm Park have urged customers to shop local in the crucial Christmas shopping period.  

This comes in the week following Small Business Saturday on December 4, which was founded in the US in 2010 by American Express and launched in the UK in 2013, in order to support independents on the high street.

It takes place on the first Saturday in December each year.  

Owner of Elm Park florist Beau De Fleur, Kenzie Dredge, celebrated the year anniversary of her business on December 4.   

The 21-year-old said: “I have been busy and feel lucky people are wanting to buy flowers for table centrepieces and gifts.  

“I also try to shop locally so that everyone gets a chance, there’s always something you find in independents that you wouldn’t in chain shops.”  

Despite support driven by the campaign, its organisers have warned independents and small businesses still need to be backed beyond the festive period as they continue to face uncertainty and challenges. 

Bits and Bobs Elm Park

Owner of Elm Park Bits and Bobs shop, Salim Mohammed (right), 39, with his "best customer" Derek Crabb (left), 45, from Elm Park. - Credit: Chantelle Billson

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Owner of Elm Park Bits and Bobs shop, Salim Mohammed, 39, said: “It’s not busy at all. People don’t have the budget and for businesses, prices have gone up in warehouses.   

“If we increase the price, people won’t buy from us. Where we sell an item for £3, online it will be £6 and people still buy online. The high street is dying and footfall declines every day.”   

Salim’s “best customer”, Derek Crabb, 45, said he likes to buy everything locally and would be upset if the local shops were forced to close.   

He said: “You’ve got to support your local shops to keep the area going. I prefer coming to buy things physically.”   

Laura Webster

Laura Webster, 64, from Hornchurch. - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Laura Webster, 64, from Hornchurch, told the Recorder she occasionally shops in Elm Park as it has a “great chemist”.  

David

Owner of Emphasize in the Liberty Shopping Centre, David Brafman. - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Meanwhile, the owner of Emphasize in the Liberty Shopping Centre, David Brafman, has had his shop for over 20 years.

He said: “As much coverage as possible for local small businesses can only be a plus.  

“Business is not easy at the moment, so the more coverage we get, the better.”  

Stroky owner

Co-owner of Stroky in The Mercury, Nicole Webb, 24. - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Karen Webb, 48, co-owns baby- and children’s-wear shop Storky in The Mercury with her 24-year-old daughter, Nicole Webb. 

She added: “I live in Romford and always encourage my family and friends to shop here instead of going out of town to Lakeside and Bluewater.  

“It’s so important to support your own local town as you’re investing in it and helping small and family-run businesses.”  

Anita

Owner of Heaven at Home in the Liberty Shopping Centre, Anita Curcio, 63. - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Emphasising the importance of shopping local, owner of Heaven at Home in the Liberty Shopping Centre, Anita Curcio, 63, said independents "won’t survive without the support”. 

She added: “High streets are dead in terms of footfall and people tend to go to large shopping centres and small independents can’t afford the rates in those kinds of places so we’re very much tied to a high street shop.

“We used to have queues at the till at Christmas and it just isn’t happening. But we do sell online, which thankfully keeps us going.”  

Romford Gift Shop owners

Owners of Romford Gift Centre, in the Liberty Shopping Centre, Chi Shah (right), 64, and Nina Shah (left), 62. - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Owners of Romford Gift Centre in the Liberty Shopping Centre, Chi Shah, 64, and Nina Shah, 62, said the lead up to Christmas has been quiet.  

Chi said: “Independents give consumers a better choice. In big centres you see the same thing.” 

Craft Market

From left to right: Lindsay Matthews, 53, Hayley Davis, 33, are both taking part in Havering Council’s arts and crafts market in the Liberty Shipping Centre. - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Havering Council has announced its small business support programme, which will provide help to small and medium enterprises for free, and its Small Business Awards.  

A spokesperson for Havering Chamber of Commerce and Industry encouraged consumers to shop local and support small businesses in their communities.  

Director of Small Business Saturday, Michelle Ovens, said the day gives “small firms important time in the spotlight”, but said support is needed all year round to help small firms survive.  


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