Struggling local shops have been left on the brink with sales plummeting following lockdowns and forced government closures.
Despite their plight, though, retailers are determined to ride the wave and bounce back.
But without the community’s support they admit they might not survive.
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Now The News is calling on people to come out and show their support for local shops.
The rallying call comes as traders are in the spotlight on Small Business Saturday, a campaign highlighting the success of local shops and calls on people to support them - not just today but throughout the year.
And with Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time to get behind local shops.
Anthony J. Duke, the ‘only cigar man in the city’, is the owner of Head Case Curios in Albert Road, Southsea, which has just celebrated its fourth birthday.
He said: 'Albert Road is really unique - everybody helps everybody. It has been hard, we are up against it. But we've had great support from the community, and that's what we need right now.
'People would rather spend the extra £5 here than on Amazon. Through all this we've survived, and it's all down to support - all we need is customers.
'Everyone around here is desperate for some trade. Keep on supporting your small high streets, and talk to the businesses, tell them what you want.'
Sarah Payne, owner of Southsea Gallery, leads a five-strong team at her Albert Road shop.
She said: ‘This time last year we were shut, so we're delighted that Christmas is on.
‘We have a lot of loyal customers. That's what independent businesses are all about.
‘We were closed eight months of the last 12, so it's nice to be open. My message is that shopping local is vital - it ploughs money back into the community, rather than in anonymous pockets. And you get old fashioned customer service.’
Anita Gyori owns the boutique store Voeux D'or on Exmouth Road, opposite the Kings Theatre.
She trained as a nurse but chose to pursue her dream of interior design, opening the shop four weeks ago.
She said: ‘I felt so much support from local people, everybody has been really good and I'm really enjoying it.
‘The community in Portsmouth and Southsea is very good when it comes to supporting small businesses.
‘These days, especially after Covid, I think people are focusing on supporting small businesses, and I want to say thank you to everyone in the community.’
Jenni Catlow, chair of Albert Road Traders Association, said: ‘Albert Road traders are up and running with our shops brimming with handmade - eccentric and alternative gifts gifts to suit all ages. Bars and restaurants are also geared up for the festive season.
‘The theatre is a blast and the Wedgewood rooms are in full swing. Come and support the one and only Albert Road.’
Traders in Fareham were also keen to highlight the benefits of shopping locally.
It comes as the town launches its Live Love Local campaign to get shops and businesses buzzing in the run-up to Christmas.
Kimmy Sabey, owner of Hearts and Hugs in Titchfield, said: ‘Shopping locally allows you to experience the personal touch. It’s not just about endless scrolling and clicking a button, you can touch and feel what you’re looking for.
‘The number of people that come into our shop and are excited about finding something they wouldn’t have seen online is lovely – and then we gift wrap it for them.
‘There’s no doubt that we are heading into some uncertainty again and no one yet knows what the next few months will bring. But we are grateful for all the support we’ve received from the local community – we rely on them to help us thrive.
‘The Livelovelocal Fareham campaign has been fantastic for us. It has created a real buzz in our area and we’ve seen lots of old and new faces supporting us and other traders in the village.’
Helena Palmer, from Bloom Florist in Stubbington and Fareham, said: ‘Being a long standing part of Stubbington Village, and more recently the High Street in Fareham, is so important to us at Bloom Florist.
‘We truly value every single one of our customers and we believe that by choosing to shop locally they are really supporting small businesses and the local community as a whole.’
With Small Business Saturday taking place, traders are hoping this will provide a further boost.
Southsea boutique yarn, fabric and haberdashery store Seeded, on Clarendon Road, is one of many stores delighted to be involved in the scheme.
Owner Alexsis Seed said: ‘(The initiative) is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to “shop local” and support small businesses in their communities.
‘The day itself takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses.’
Seeded will be getting involved by hosting a day long event that will include Portsmouth City Band joining them to play festive tunes with creative shopping, inspiration and nibbles are all planned.
Alexis added: ‘It's really important for us as a small independent business to get involved each year, especially this year as it's our first Small Business Saturday in our new home.
‘It’s also a great opportunity for us to engage with our customers and the wider community to speak to them about what the Seeded creative community is about.’
Politicians have also leapt to the support of traders.
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, said: ‘We have so many fantastic traders in Portsmouth.
‘From food and drink to arts, to fashion to services. Our Christmas shop is an opportunity we can seize to show our support to local traders who have weathered the covid storm. I’ll be shopping local this Christmas, let’s show them we care.’
Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said: ‘Local businesses are the lifeblood of our city, but the past 18 months has been an incredibly difficult time for many of them.
‘That’s why I have been calling on people to “Support Local” this Christmas, and nominate the independent businesses that have gone above and beyond in serving our city’s communities this year, through my small business awards.
‘Like many Portsmouth people, on this weekend’s Small Business Saturday, I’ll be out and about supporting local traders and shops.
‘So many small businesses and shop workers helped keep our city going during the pandemic. Now it’s our turn to support them not just this Saturday, but all year round.’
SEE ALSO: Personal touch sees business thrive
Meanwhile the public have said shops need help from the public.
Builder Matthew Oakes said independent traders needed as much support as possible.
The 38-year-old from Leigh Park said: ‘They’re the lifeblood of the high street. My father-in-law has run his own furniture store near Bristol for ages.
‘He has really struggled during the pandemic. It’s been really tough. I know me and my wife always make a point of trying to shop locally. Everyone should support their local shops.’
Vera Theseiro, 88, of Cosham, was also fully in support of helping local businesses.
The pensioner told The News: ‘We definitely should support them. It’s very important. Enough shops are going out of business as it is. We have to keep the ones that are still here going.’
Retired shopkeeper Patrick Montgommery said the past two years for traders had been exceptionally challenging.
‘I don’t envy anyone running their own shops right now,’ said the 69-year-old, who recently moved to Cosham from Newcastle.
‘I packed in my shop a few years ago. It is hard to compete against the larger shops like Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
‘Loyal customers mean the world but it's really hard to compete against the bigger stores that can undercut your prices.’
Speaking of The News’ campaign, he added: ‘I absolutely support it. It’s a great idea.’
Christmas shopping events in Portsmouth
Portsmouth's Christmas Market in Commercial Road - wooden cabins selling festive treats from German sausages to glühwein, Christmas stockings and tree decorations.
Love Southsea Market in Palmerston Road for local specialist gifts, food and drink.
Hotwalls Christmas Market, Old Portsmouth. Chat to local artists in the Open Studios, visit the Trader's Keep artisan market and support local traders by shopping a range of prints, ceramics, and homeware.
Portsmouth City Council is also developing Rediscover Portsmouth, a new mobile friendly website which lists local businesses and their latest value-added offers to encourage spending locally: www.rediscoverportsmouth.co.uk