• rainy williamson

Shop Small Shop Local Shop Independent

This went out as part of my newsletter on the 2nd of November. I've had some lovely feedback so I thought I'd share it here too for those that aren't signed up to my newsletter [you can sign up here]

Saturday [31st Oct] night’s lockdown news for England was devastating, and for small independent businesses its particularly tough. Bricks and mortar shops that sell products not deemed as ‘essential’ are having to close their doors and I know that many will likely never open those doors again. Some businesses will be able to trade online, but often that’s a completely different customer base to those that walk through the doors of a physical shop, so it isn’t a straightforward transition. This time of year is also when most retailers sell sufficient to take their accounting books out of the red and into the black – being unable to benefit from increased seasonal shopping will be the final straw for a lot of small businesses that were only just clinging on from the last lockdown. So, what has this to do with fibre craft? Well, which ever art / craft you pursue, the supplier of your raw materials – be that a farmer, a craft shop or an online retailer – will be impacted by this lockdown. If you want those supplies to remain available for your craft in the future, for those pattern designers to keep designing, for the video tutorial makers to keep producing, then they will need your support. I’m talking about the small, independent businesses and producers here - the ones where there is no board of directors, import managers etc., but those where the same person wears the hat of accountant, social media guru, designer, purchaser, customer service and tea maker. Those for whom each sale contributes directly to paying household bills, feeding families [and sheep possibly]. These people wait for, and see, every sale that they make and are grateful for it. Making a purchase isn’t the only way to help small businesses. Being a positive support has a huge impact too. Small businesses are hugely impacted by negative comments on social media. This is worth thinking about if you comment publicly that you aren’t keen on particular colour that a yarn dyer has posted about, or that you find wool scratchy on someone’s woolly fibre post, or maybe that something took a while to arrive in the post.  Small negative comments are now commonplace on social media as people use them as a way to prompt large retailers to respond to their problems. For tiny independent businesses, those little barbs can have a lasting impact. Thumpers words were right ‘If you can’t say something nice – don’t say nothing at all’, and if you have a genuine issue, contact the business directly. Privately.

Making a conscious decision to shop small wherever you can, will not only support the business but will also make you feel good too. Here are some of the not so obvious ways that you can lend your support to those small businesses who desperately need it right now: 1. Post a product review on social media giving a link to the supplier. 2. Post a customer service review on social media giving a link to the business whose services you loved. 3. Recommend businesses to others. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. 4. Get involved with Just a Card’s ‘indie week’ campaign on social media 23rd – 27th September. 5. Repost / share social media posts to encourage others to make a purchase. 6. Comment positively on social media posts. This increases the posts visibility to others much more than a ‘like’. 7. Share on local Facebook groups to encourage local shoppers. That little yarn shop [like Fine Yarns in Horwich] that you love might be as yet unknown to some. 8. Sign up to newsletters [like the British Fibre Art one]. Social media posts aren’t always seen so a newsletter helps small businesses to keep in touch.

9. Visit websites and have a good look round – you never know what you might find! 10. Message a small business with good news – not just when you have a complaint. A short message thanking them for great service will make someone’s day [and might just bring a tear to their eye]. 11. When you post pictures on social media of your amazing fibre creations, let people know who supplied your materials, or who wrote the tutorial you followed. 12. Follow businesses that you like on social media. 13. Share the businesses hashtag if they have one. It will help others to find them.  14. Tag a friend to highlight a business that they might like. 15. If you are a blogger, interview a small indie business. 16. If you find a small business on an online marketplace, see if they have their own website or shop on social media. Buying from them directly will save them the increasing cost of commission. 17. Don’t ask for [or expect] free gifts, discounts, offer codes etc. At this time, that freebie for you could be crippling a small business. 18. Ask if the businesses sells gift cards for future use. 19. Shout out to your followers on a regular basis highlighting businesses that you've used and would recommend. This is going to be a rough ride for everyone. Let's do what we can to make it as smooth as possible.

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