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Supporting local businesses

Hello all! I'm a student working on a project aimed at supporting local businesses. I would like to know how you find local shops and services (apart from using of course).


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Imran K
You could always walk around! Local shops and businesses are under threat from a number of sources. If you look at Tower Hamlets and Hackney the boom is in betting and pawn shops and payday loan outlets.

Council business rates are killing off the small trader and what they don't get the supermarkets do. Have a look at Brick Lane where all of the restaurants are struggling. What do other people think?
Molly P
The recent launch of the East End Trades Guild is an important and hopeful development, in defence of the community values of small local shops and businesses.  Take a look at the stories on the internet describing its formation and aims, and keep an eye out for its identifying logo on the windows of enterprises who have joined.  It started in Spitalfields but is growing and potentially inclusive of all East London.  It's well worth supporting in any way we can.
Imran K
A worthy attempt to generate the small business field and I wish it luck but having witnessed several downturns in the economy I think the current one is going to have long term effects. I have never understood, and I am an accountant, why property owners will leave shops empty for long periods of time rather than reduce the rent to get someone in. Beats me.
Helen A
An efficient way to explore shops in the area is by bike.  There are tonnes of little boutiques, cafes, galleries, stalls, and weird n wonderful ventures tucked away down alleys, side streets and canal paths, which might be invisible from a main road.
Imran K
Try Vyner St just by the canal where Hackney meets Tower Hamlets. On the corner a real Italian restaurant, Ombra, and loads of architects and designer people.
Jane F
Hi, Sylvie, It may be interesting to look at the shops on Queens Crescent NW5. I live just off the crescent and REALLY want to support my local shops and businesses, however, I find it's overloaded with several shops selling the same things and under-represented with produce and other things I'm looking for. For example, if another "mixed business" shop opens up that sells a scattering of the same tired old fruit and vegetables that the rest of them do, I will scream. I'd reckon there must be at least 6 along the same strip in addition to the Nisa and the Fruit and Veg barrow that arrives most mornings. Yet still I can't find things I need for meals and recipes I want to create and so I am forced to go up to M&S at South end Green and end up doing all my shopping there or down at Camden Sainsburys. The other shops on the Crescent sell mostly crap that I don't need and I still lament the departure of the best hardware/DIY shop that ever existed from the crescent. There's one greasy spoon caff, nowhere decent to get a coffee or a cake. What's going on there?  Then on Thursday and Saturdays there's the "Market" that happens but every time I go there to look I'm disappointed. I wonder who wants to buy cleaning fluids and plastic wraps at the market? Where are the 2nd-hand clothes stalls? The interesting books/mags seller? The antiques?  Where's the food? There's one guy that does pokara and other Indian stuff and that's it. Even the brilliant French baker (croissants, fresh baguettes, olive breads, nice cakes etc) has stopped coming to the market. He never bothered to come the Thursday, just Saturday) I reckon the crescent would attract many more local customers if the businesses diversified and offered something different. Can you help?  I think it would make a good study for your project anyway. let me know what you think.
Cyrus P
Use google maps and google in general.
Kei A  scroll down half way. '
Shops & Amenities'.
Thank you all for your answers! You've been very helpful.

I agree that walking and cycling can be a good way of exploring and finding shops within an area. I'm just wondering how to make this way of exploring appealing to those who normally have less time (perhaps they are working full time), regularly use tube and shop in nearest supermarkets.

The East End Trades Guild is an interesting example. Thank you Molly P.

Jane F, thank you for your insight into the problem. I understand very well what you mean. I agree that variety of the offer as well as our ability to find what we need (and want) within the local area would help supporting local businesses. Do you think some form of dialogue between business owners and customers could be a solution?

I would really like to hear more opinions on this matter and any suggestion would be welcome. I hope my research will lead to a valuable solution.
Imran K
Sylvie. I,m sure you're well intentioned but there is an economic reality out there that cannot be resolved simply by wishing it. There are a number of trends that cannot be fought. Big outlets can always shut down little ones in the same economic sphere because of bulk buying.

An example are the Sainsburys outlets and Tesco locals. From the Whitechapel Road to Upper Clapton Rd there are six. They are putting the smaller greengrocers out of business. These are now mostly Turkish owned. I know some of the owners of these businesses and they are struggling. It is only because of the fact that the family run them that they can keep their heads above water.

Next we have the niche shops. Have a look at Broadway Market for a good example of this. Two bookshops, a retro clothes shop, up market pubs and restaurants with a couple of traditional Turkish owned off licences and grocers. Some Sundays there is a farmers market with some of the most expensive cheeses in existence!

 Were it not for the niche element the market would be the way I knew it from the seventies, dead, with most of the shops empty or squatted. Then go to the Narrow Way which is actually the very top of Mare Street. Pound shops, bookmakers, charity shops and not much else.

The other niche market is the coffee shop which is spreading along the Hackney Road from Shoreditch and is now on its way up Mare St. This phenomena is very vulnerable to fashion changes and operates on a very small margin of profit. While the niche market has saved some areas it isn't used by local people but largely from people outside an area who come to use the facilities.

Good luck with the research anyway.
Arno B
Hi Sylvie,

I work in an independent shop on Broadway Market. 
I agree with Imran when he says there are a number of trends that cannot be fought.
But let me add "alone" at the end of the sentence.

A healthy retail mix is the reflection of a healthy community, and vice versa.
A lone shop keeper can only do so much to defend their interest against greedy landlords, bizarre council enforcement and industrial scale retail.
The only way to make their voice heard and thrive is to work as a group.

Do get in touch with BMTRA (Broadway Market Traders Association) and you should get some great stuff for your research.
Although their role is to manage the weekly market, they provide the structure for local people & businesses to work together on a number of issues.

I do hope they serve as a model for other areas.
You can contact them through their website
Janine D
Hi Sylvie,
have just caught up with this interesting post. I would be interested to know how people "discover" or "decide" where to shop as I have recently been involved in setting up a new street market in Caledonian Road :

We had a six week run from November to December which proved that people ARE keen to come and buy quality, specialist produce. Several of our traders now have regular customers and are eager to re-open on January 26th!
As others have said before, businesses must stick together and support each other :)
Sylvie M
Try Theobalds, the butcher in Theobalds Road, opposite Holborn library. Better meat and it comes with trimmings and suggestions. I found all these gems through working in the area and following up recommendations from colleagues.
Debbie R
You should have a look at Marchmont Street WC1 - which is a Georgian 'High Street' that has managed to retain its customers despite the existence of the Brunswick Centre next door.  Leigh Street is another nearby street with a mixture of shops, cafes and restaurants. The area is supported by a very strong residents and traders association, which I think helps.  The committee has to be represented by both businesses and residents so there's a good balance of commitment to the area. There's an annual 'Shop Fronts' award to encourage shop owners to keep their premises attractive. Check out the website.  In terms of your research, I'm sure Ricci de Freitas, the Chair, would be happy to talk to you and offer his extensive experience on being both local resident and community activist. Obviously streets have changed due to the economic climate and people's preference for supermarkets. I too miss the local butchers and fishmongers that used to be around the corner.  The latest tragedy was the recent loss of Poveys, a wonderful hardware shop and hub of the community that had been trading continuously since 1852. The shop WAS supported by locals but health issues as well as competition from Robert Dyas unfortunately accelerated its demise.  There has been an influx of coffee shops in recent years, but as the neighbourhood has a lot of students and tourists, it's hardly surprising.The MA website lists all the local businesses, so take a look and come and explore!
Sylvie M
For decaff in Camden, go to the British Museum and the shopping's good - Egyptian patterned accessories and china which make unusual gifts.
Ian R
There's Well Street shops - and a website   Well Street definitely needs support! We have a traders and residents meeting on Jan 31 at 6.30pm at TJs Salon, 198 Well Street to which anyone is welcome to come along.

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