09:30AM, Friday 11 December 2020
Traders are hoping shoppers’ support for local stores will extend beyond the town centre this Christmas.
Between the first lockdown and the second, loss of footfall has had a devastating impact on sales for businesses, including those based in the borough’s villages and residential areas.
Despite these challenges, many of these businesses have found new ways to reach their customers ,especially for those shops that thrive off providing a particular environment.
For those who would still feel safer staying at home, independent businesses have turned their attention to remote services, including Old Butchers Wine Cellar in Cookham.
“We’ve had to make our home delivery really efficient – same-day delivery where we can,” said Paul Stratford, managing director of the Old Butchers Wine Cellar in Cookham.
“People usually want their wine that day, so it’s key to giving people confidence to pick up the phone.”
It has also entered into a partnership with the Little Bookshop nearby, offering ‘A book and a bottle’ subscription. Customers receive a bottle of wine and a new release of contemporary fiction every month.
“It will be something they won’t have read before, something they wouldn’t necessarily choose, so it’s like receiving a book recommendation,” said Little Bookshop manager Chantal Farquhar.
“This year has been pretty devastating – about 35 per cent of our annual sales are around Christmas.”
The shop has also adapted its website to offer e-commerce, but Chantal says selling online ‘doesn’t compare’ to the sales they would expect from the store being open.
“People browse and buy more, they can get recommendations – they miss out on all that with online selling,” she said.
To encourage more Christmas business, the shop is opening on Mondays for the first time, and late on Thursdays.
Maidenhead Gift Emporium in St Mark’s Road has had the misfortune to be closed down twice in its first ever year of business.
“When Boris made the announcement that all non-essential shops had to close in November, I had to think what we could salvage from it,” said manager Karen Rosser. “Unlike lockdown one, closing was just not an option.”
Gift Emporium has since set up its ecommerce site offering 180 products – which has been a ‘mammoth task’.
The store is open every day from now until Christmas Eve, including some late evenings.
“We’re hoping for a manic next few weeks,” said Karen.
Over in Bray, Wendy Wright runs boutique clothing store The Wendy House Nails It from her home.
She has kept the business COVID-safe by operating by appointment only and partly outdoors under cover, with customers spread out between floors.
Wendy is looking to collaborate more with other small businesses in the near future, to better support each other.
“Amazon will be here in 20 years whether we like it or not,” said Wendy. “People need to support the small shops, and the coffee shops – or some of the small businesses will have to close.
“When you look around market towns, everything there is the same – we need more boutique businesses to stay open.”
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