Research prompts Christmas ‘shop local’ campaign to help save smaller stores

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Last Updated: 30 Nov 2020 9:59am

More than half of independent retailers across Tonbridge and Malling fear a lack of local shoppers this Christmas could put their business at risk in the next 12 months.

A survey of outlets carried out by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council found that while 12 per cent said business was ‘good’, 53 per cent said the impact of lockdown and other restrictions could mean the shutters coming down permanently in 2021. Last week’s announcement that Kent will be under Tier 3 restrictions until at least mid-December is likely to make life even harder for many.

The biggest factors affecting business were said to be a lack of spending on high streets and in village centres (53 per cent) and competition from online retailers (41 per cent). Across the UK, research suggests that online shopping has grown by more than 10 per cent this year and a quarter of UK shoppers plan to make a permanent switch to ordering goods online following the pandemic.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council is responding to the findings with a campaign to encourage people to ‘shop local this Christmas’. The campaign comprising radio and online advertising plus social media promotions will run from 3-24 December. It will highlight the range of seasonal goods and services available from independent retailers, special offers and loyalty card schemes to help cut the cost of Christmas shopping.

The campaign is the latest step by the council to support businesses across the borough. Since March it has distributed a total of £24m in grants to more than 300 firms and from this week will be employing ‘Covid marshals’ to provide reassurance to shoppers.

Council Leader, Nicolas Heslop, said: ‘Having endured two lockdowns and a surge in online shopping, it’s hardly surprising that many smaller stores are struggling. Independent retailers are the lifeblood of our towns and village centres and significant closures would be a tragedy, not just for them and their staff but also for the wider community which benefit from their unique contribution to life in our borough.

‘We hope people hear our message that even if you plan to do much of your Christmas shopping online this year, making a conscious decision to shop locally as well could be a lifeline for many of these stores.’