Biting hard at our local businesses.

It’s the end of June – already, doesn’t seem like two minutes since we were knee deep in Snow. It’s been a busy few weeks at work, and correspondingly it’s been a quiet few weeks on the blog: and the busyness couldn’t be more welcome – it’s been a quiet few months with work with the recession clearly having an impact not just on our business, but on many around us. Many commentators are trying to make out that the recession is a technical term, that it’s only having an impact on certain sectors – but I think that’s increasingly being shown to be untrue – recession’s take time to bite: they don’t suddenly arrive, instead they filter down, slowly using up reserves, making life more critical and making business ever more difficult for those that don’t quickly adapt to the conditions of the day.

It’s been a very sad few weeks on Berwick Street, admittedly it’s never going to win awards for being London’s most glitziest street, but over the years it’s developed a collection of great shops, cafés and restaurants that were always well patronised by anyone that considers themselves a local. Over the last few weeks we’ve lost a great indie fashion label, a record store that’s been on the street for as long as I can remember, a coffee shop that was always busy and the brilliant pie and mash shop, Pastry Pilgrim, all seemingly there one day, gone the next.

Businesses are like that – speaking from very personal experience, you always know things are going wrong, but the catastrophic end always sneaks up – you go from being a fighting chance to over in minutes: and it’s heart-wrenching. Often when you see coverage of ‘the recession’ you hear about job losses, but you don’t often see the individual tragedies, the small businesses, ignored by their banks, run on a pittance and run with heart, soul and endless back-breaking hours of toil: and as tragic as hundreds of people being laid off from a national chain might be, the death of a small business should be given equal billing – as it’s our small businesses that lead the recovery, they’re the major tax-payers, they’re the future – and that should never be forgotten.

So the next time you pass a closed up shop with a bailiff’s bolt through the front door, think long and hard about patronising your local businesses more – right now they need your business more than ever before. The bland, faceless chains will survive, but the businesses that enhance an area and offer you something unique won’t if you don’t spend your money with them. It’s not a good time to be in business right now – getting even a basic business overdraft is almost impossible, banks are raking through past failures and history to find any reason to turn people down. Landlords are getting jumpy about rents being paid, invoices are being paid later and later and some not at all, while all the big chains are more likely to be pushing out bargains to entice customers in to replace high value sales with volume sales that the small business simply can’t compete against.

This country needs entrepreneurs, it needs people to generate new products, new jobs and new markets. So never forget that our small businesses represent the grass roots of all business: because after all, every business has to start somewhere, and that start is almost always small.

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