As more businesses look forward to reopening their doors, an online platform that has supported more than 900 local businesses through the pandemic is marking its first anniversary and looking to the future.
North Yorkshire Buy Local was created by North Yorkshire County Council in spring last year to bring together local businesses able to offer goods and services during the first lockdown with customers who had to stay at home or were isolating or shielding.
As lockdown eases, Buy Local is looking ahead to building on its role as a great way for businesses serving North Yorkshire to reach new customers.
The site is a hassle-free way for shoppers to find out what is on offer and to support local businesses as they recover from the impact of the pandemic. Businesses registered on the site are encouraged to update their details regularly to create a database of accurate and timely information for customers to refer to again and again.
Sam Spence, owner of Crafts of Thirsk, was among the first business people to register with Buy Local. She said: “When I first registered on Buy Local last year after seeing it on social media, my profile went live in the morning and I got a new order before 2pm that afternoon off the back of it! I’ve reached new customers through the site and they have helped me to keep my business going during the pandemic with online orders. So I’ll definitely be sticking with Buy Local as a potential source of new custom. I am opening fully on Monday and am rather excited, I can tell you!”
The pandemic has seen many businesses put on ice, but the next step in easing lockdown, which will take place from 12 April, will see non-essential shops and businesses such as hairdressers and nail and beauty salons reopen. Hospitality venues will be able to serve people outdoors and most outdoor attractions will be able to open, as will public buildings, including libraries.
County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les said: “Non-essential businesses have had a particularly tough time. We can now cautiously look forward to summer and the revival of the retail and hospitality sectors, which contribute so much to North Yorkshire’s economy. Let’s keep the good local shopping habits formed during the pandemic and support our reopening businesses as much as we can, while remembering how important it is still to ‘wash hands, make space and cover face’ when we are out and about.”
Asylum Antiques in Whitby is one of the businesses registered on Buy Local and owner Andy Park is looking forward to welcoming customers back into his shop safely. While closed, Adam has kept the business trading with internet sales.
“The online stuff is keeping us going, but we need the walk-in customers,” he said. “I am in the shop every day, getting it ready to have people in there again, but we can only have a couple of people in the shop at any time and the problem with that is not everyone wants to queue.”
Among those expected to support the reopening business are a keen band of followers, attracted by the ever-changing stock, which Adam described with pride as featuring the “weird” among more familiar objects.
“Buy Local has helped, these are the sort of schemes businesses need to get involved with,” said Adam.
Along the coast in Sandsend, Neil Hodgson’s Sandside Café adapted by opening a second serving hatch and employing marshals to keep queues short and safe. Neil was allowed to continue cooking for customers, but only on a takeaway basis, and he overhauled the way his café operates to make that process smooth and efficient.
Now he is looking forwards to a positive future and said: “We have come out of a grey, cold, dark winter.”
The business had changed and he said: “It has been a whole new structure we have had to put in place.
We invested in more staff as marshals to work outside.”
He believes the success to the roll-out of the roadmap from the pandemic will be “patience and respect”.
“They are the two main things I would like to see from ourselves and people who come to the café; common respect and respect for themselves as well as others.”
Alex Smith, who owns The Treatment Rooms in Harrogate, took the step of retailing beauty products to help keep the business moving. She also released videos online to provide customers with guides on how to get the best results from the products they were buying.
Grants and furlough payments had helped, and she generated retail trade using social media, making deliveries as part of her exercise routine and delivering groceries for those who needed help with those at the same time.
When she re-opens the salon on Monday, appointments will be separated by 15-minute intervals to allow treatment rooms to be sanitised and to prevent customers coming into contact inside the building.
Alex took over the business after working there for many years, moving to new premises in Mayfield Grove: “The first year was good, I was 25 and brought along eight members of staff. This is my second year, which has been a lot harder. It has been a huge challenge. I have had to make redundancies to keep my costs down. However, if I can survive this, I can survive anything!”
Cllr Les added: “Businesses are relying on a really good summer to get back on their feet and so many have shown great ingenuity and courage during these unprecedented times. With staycations the norm this year, we all have a chance to support local businesses and spend money on own doorstep in a Covid-safe way.
“Buy Local has been there to help as a one-stop shop, enabling customers to search for goods and services close to home and from further afield. During its first year, more than 900 businesses have registered on the online community and more join by the day. It will remain as a valuable resource way beyond the pandemic.
“If you’re a business person who has benefited from registering with Buy Local, tell your business colleagues, and if you’ve found goods or services on the site, tell your friends and family. We can all help Buy Local be the best is can to support businesses through their recovery.”
Whether you need a plumber, quality local produce or a box of chocolates, find it on Buy Local. Many businesses on the site offer online ordering and delivery and those that can do so safely will be re-opening their doors on 12 April.