Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink businesses thank residents for shopping local during lockdown.
At times during lockdown, some Llangollen businesses were doing a week’s worth of business in a day with no or few extra staff and little notice to stock up. An exhausting, but welcome, change following years of our independent retailers losing sales to supermarkets and national chains. Some had to change their business models overnight shifting from shopfronts to delivery, and some from wholesale to selling direct to customers.
Through the member group Llangollen & Dee Valley Food and Drink (formerly the Good Grub Club) local businesses have released a thank you to everyone who has shopped locally during lockdown, and to explain why it is so important to keep doing so as lockdown eases. It launches today, linked to the Welsh Government’s #CaruCymruCaruBlas / LoveWalesLoveTaste campaign in partnership with Taste North East Wales under the hashtag #KeepLocalAlive / #CadwchLleolynFuw.
Robyn Lovelock, from the group’s committee, explained “When supermarkets couldn’t deliver back in March, our local food and drink shops stepped up. They recruited extra staff and volunteers to ensure everyone was able to access essentials and more, and worked so many overtime hours. Many local businesses worked together for the first time and generally moved mountains to deliver up and down the valley.”
Tracey Hughes, from Porter’s Delicatessen in Llangollen, agrees “Expanding our home delivery service has been crucial in supplying our regular customers and has helped us find new ones too. And working with other local shops, particularly Dee Valley Produce, has also helped us reach more customers than we would have been able to on our own.”
Rachel Burns, from Rachels Vegan Cakes in Bwlchgwyn, has been overwhelmed with the demand “I never expected to be so busy! People wanted to surprise or cheer up friends, people with birthdays and all sorts. I’ve loved writing little notes to people from their loved ones. I feel so grateful that people have trusted me to make their friend or relatives day.”
This experience in Llangollen and the Dee Valley is in line with national trends which, according to research from Barclaycard, has found that food and drink specialist stores – off-licences, greengrocers, independent convenience stores, butchers and bakeries – have seen 38% increase in consumer spending while overall spending fell by 37%.
But as we head out of lockdown, the local business group wants to emphasise how much local businesses will be reliant on their new-found support. Jo Edwards, from Aballu Artisan Chocolates in Rossett, describes the ways she has adapted and investments she has made in new systems “We’ve offered free local deliveries, invested in a payment system that enables our customers to pay using contactless or paying over-the-phone, and have worked long hours to compensate for furloughed staff. It’s been a steep learning curve for us, but I appreciate the support that people have given Aballu by choosing to buy from us rather than a big online company, and hope they will continue to do so”.
Robyn says “We have to appreciate that spending our money with these local businesses, perhaps buying less but buying locally, means we are investing in our own community. These businesses have proven through lockdown they are here for us: for essentials, for treats, for gifts. Our #KeepLocalAlive message thanks them for what they’ve done, as well as emphasises all the other benefits that shopping locally can provide such as personalised care and attention, ability to order from a distance, quality of products, convenience of delivery, and more.”
June Lister, a Dee Valley Produce customer from Llandrillo, couldn’t agree more “Being in the vulnerable category and living in a remote village, I was worried how I would access regular supplies. Dee Valley Produce delivered to my door without fail throughout lockdown, with payments over the phone, and have kept me healthy throughout. It’s the personal attention that makes the difference, they know who I am and care about my order. Supermarkets failed to provide that service when I needed them most, and certainly cannot provide that level of customer service”
The research from Barclaycard suggests that over half of shoppers want to increase their support of non-essential local businesses, and the group is hoping this is the case. As people start to return to shops and high streets, Robyn says the message from the group is that “Customers have seen they can trust local businesses to deliver what they want, safely and reliably, even in a crisis. Let’s thank them for their support during lockdown by continuing to shop with them as the new normal emerges.