Plea from defiant Portsmouth traders asking customers to ditch Amazon and follow their stores online

DETERMINED not to be beaten by lockdown, the city’s traders have adapted to ensure their businesses survive and continue to trade in the vital run up to Christmas.

Monday, 9th November 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 9th November 2020, 11:59 am

Shutters may be down until December 2 but customers are still very much welcome online, small Portsmouth retailers have said.

Click and collect, Facebook live events, virtual shopping and Zoom consultations are just some of the ways traders have adapted to ensure residents can still do their Christmas shopping.

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Traders from the We Create Market are looking to take their products online during lockdown.

The News and Portsmouth City Council is throwing its full weight behind the campaign to get customers buying online from local people.

And The News is running its online list of traders as part of our Shop Local campaign.

In a rallying cry, Charlotte Cornelius – who owns Charlotte Cornelius Jewellery Design in Marmion Road, Southsea – said: ‘Rather than just clicking on Amazon, I would urge everyone to just make that extra effort to think could I get this same item online from a local trader?

‘Our customers are loyal and we’ve never needed their support more.’

Paul Joel has taken his TechCheck products online to help survive the pandemic lockdown. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Charlotte is offering to personally deliver goods and is running live video tours of her stock.

Another business hoping local shoppers follow it online to survive is TechCheck Advanced Technology Solutions in Kingston Road.

Co-owner Paul Joel said: ‘Being able to trade online will be a real lifeline – the difference between survival or not being able to come back after the pandemic.

Charlotte Cornelius, owner of Charlotte Cornelius Jewellery Design, with some of the jewellery she will now be selling online. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘It is easy to click on the big online providers but I would urge everyone to support their local traders.’

However, Paul is not confident he will be able to reopen the doors to his shop after December 2.

He added: ‘I’m praying we open at the start of December but I don’t get a sense of certainty from anything the government says. I wouldn’t be surprised if lockdown goes into the the new year.’

If lockdown does extend into January, Keith Scorgie, owner of the Design Shop Southsea, feels it could spell the end for many of the city’s businesses.

Paul's business partner, George O'Donnell, with some of the items to be sent out as online orders. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He said: ‘November and December are often our busiest months and for many retailers, if they are not allowed to reopen in December, then it could be the end of many traders.’

It’s for this reason that Keith believes it’s imperative Pompey residents support local traders.

He added: ‘It’s essential not to just buy from the big guns such as Amazon.

‘If you want that product then it’s vital to look beyond the first line of your Google search and find an outlet which sells it locally.

‘Supporting local businesses isn’t just supporting the shop. Local businesses are paying local taxes as well as employing local people.’

One local trader who has already been an economic victim of the pandemic is clothing designer, Carrie Nightingale, who owns the Cheeky Bitch retail company.

Shoppers Denise Barclay and partner Paul Jutkiewicz feel independent shops are an integral part of the local community.

Carrie said: ‘I was working as a make-up artist but the cancellation of proms, weddings and other events meant there was no work.

‘I followed the government’s advice to retrain and have set up my own online business selling t-shirts, hoodies, bags and sweatshirts.’

The success of Carrie’s second career is now very much dependent on residents supporting local traders.

She added: ‘I need this to work. I’m dependent on it for paying the bills.

‘A lot of people have been posting on social media about shopping local. One of the few good things to come out of this pandemic is that people now seem to be more supportive of each other.’

In addition to backing the campaign, the city council has been working with Shaping Portsmouth to support local businesses with their digital profile and trade.

Measures include supporting local traders to set up online platforms.

Shoppers are also being encouraged to buy gift vouchers that can be used after lockdown.

Cabinet member for economic development, Councillor Steve Pitt, said: ‘Businesses are being entrepreneurial in order to survive and it’s absolutely vital we continue to support local traders through online shopping and click and collect.

‘Remember that spending money locally will help our businesses to survive and protect jobs. With many non-essential shops having to shut their doors at one of their busiest times we hope you will choose to visit them virtually for your Christmas shopping this year.

‘Please choose to go local when shopping online and encourage others to do the same. It really could make the difference to the survival of many businesses.’

Chief executive officer of Shaping Portsmouth, Stef Nienaltowski, added: ‘Whilst we will clearly not be able to see all the shops remain open this month, we are going to be planning for all the key activities we planned to run and support businesses in the run up to Christmas.

‘We will be promoting and supporting those retail and hospitality venues that are offering take away, deliveries and click and collect services and this will mean that the heart will still be beating, albeit a little slower, in our high streets during the next few weeks.

We Create Market

In addition to high street shops, one of the biggest retail sectors to suffer due to the impact of Covid are independent pop up stall outlets. Many of these retailers are local artists, photographers and jewellery and clothing designers.

The We Create Market has been set up in the old Debenhams building in Southsea. The enterprise, established by the community interest company Portsmouth Creates, provided an economic lifeline for the city’s creatives.

However, the latest lockdown has resulted in many of these traders also having to take their micro-businesses online.

We Create chairman, Tim Rusby, said: ‘We’ve put together an A to Z digital directory of all our traders to encourage and enable continued trade online which will hopefully go someway to filling the void during lockdown.

‘However, I hope it never replaces face to face shopping and the opportunity to communicate with someone who cares passionately about their product.’

Tim also urged people to shop online with local retailers rather than major suppliers such as Amazon.

He added: ‘A Christmas gift should be something special and nothing shows you care more than a present from a local trader who has taken time and care over that product.’

What customers said

A recent survey by The News revealed that 71.51 per cent of residents viewed the festive period as a ‘good opportunity’ to support local businesses.

It was a sentiment shared by shoppers in Palmerston Road in Southsea who were purchasing presents before lockdown kicked in last week.

Dawn Gallery, who lives in Southsea, said: ‘I think it’s really important to support our local shops as we will miss them if they disappear.

‘I will definitely be looking to shop local for Christmas.’

Fellow shopper, Denise Barclay, added: ‘I think it’s devastating some local businesses have had to close and if people don’t support our local shops they will soon be gone.’

Her partner Paul Jutkiewicz feels the significance of high streets such as Palmerston Road extends beyond the provision of goods.

Paul said: ‘Losing our shops would be losing an integral part of our community. It’s really important to show our support in the run-up to Christmas.’

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Former make-up artist, Carrie Nightingale, has taken her business online by launching an eco-friendly fashion brand. Picture: Habibur Rahman