East Anglia: Small traders welcome ‘shop local day’ proposal

BUSINESS experts and professionals have backed an initiative to encourage shoppers to use small, local shops.

The suggestion by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, to dedicate one day a year to shopping just at local, independents has been welcomed as a potential bonus for traders in the county’s smaller towns and villages.

Mr Umunna wants the UK to adopt an initiative similar to America’s annual “Small Business Saturday”, which has taken place on the first weekend after Thanksgiving since 2010.

The MP for Streatham, in south London, suggested December 7 an ideal date to boost confidence among small shop owners at the start of the Christmas shopping rush.

His proposal has been greeted with interest by local industry authorities, who support the idea in principle but are less enthusiastic about Mr Umunna’s desire to engage credit card giant American Express, which devised and sponsors the initiative in the US.

Naomi Tarry, chair of the Aldeburgh Business Association, said: “It’s a very interesting idea. Independent shops are at the heart of Suffolk’s small towns and villages and it’s good to hear of new proposals to support them.

“In Aldeburgh we ran a very successful ‘Independents’ Day’ in shops in the town on July 4 last year.

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“Our traders offered a whole range of masterclasses and special offers to thank our customers for supporting us. It was so popular that we hope to bring it back again this year.

“So I think that a ‘Small Business Saturday’ in the wintertime could prove very popular if fully supported and promoted across Suffolk. Many independent shops don’t accept American Express because of the high fees they charge, but I’m sure that other sponsors would be interested in supporting it.”

The EADT’s Shop Local campaign has for several years offered support and encouragement to the thousands of businesses that shape the community in Suffolk and North Essex.

A national campaign to establish a Small Business Saturday in the UK is already gaining support in Manchester, Birmingham and London

But some commentators would like to see a more lasting approach to supporting local business. Chris Harrold, chairman of Choose Woodbridge, said: “Focusing on just one day a year may even be harmful – making shopping locally seem like a treat rather than the norm.

“We’re very lucky in Woodbridge.For the majority of the community, shopping locally is a way of life and something to be celebrated.”