ENTREPRENEURS and company owners across the News area have united to highlight the personal touch and high-quality service that small businesses bring to the high street.
In the run-up to Small Business Saturday on December 7, The News has spoken to owners of small independent businesses throughout Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport and Fareham to see what life is really like in the high street’s current climate.
Although rent prices, business rates and a dying high street were a common concern, many owners thought there was something different to buying local that people liked and made them unique.
Caroline Usher owns Ushers - a traditional greengrocer on Cosham High Street - with her husband Norman and says they bring something different to what supermarkets can offer.
She said: ‘You have got to offer something different. Independent and different products that you can’t get in the supermarkets.
‘My husband goes to the market at 2am four days a week to buy fresh products, while I run the store, you don’t get that at Tesco.’
Jo Durham, who owns Queens Parade News in Gosport, said her business has more of a community touch than large supermarkets.
The 54-year-old, who has worked at the shop for 23 years and owned it for 16, said: ‘There used to be that thing where the person who ran the shop knew everyone. It’s like I’m hanging on to the good old days. There’s mums with kids who let their kids walk down on their own because they know us. It’s not what you get in other shops because they have a high turnover of staff. We’re more in touch with the community.’
As well as small, independent shops having more to offer, some people think the high street is on the rise overall – thanks to social media.
George Goodrham opened Giorgio’s Pizza in Waterlooville in March 2018 and thinks the high street in the town is showing improvement.
He said: ‘We don’t think it’s dying at all. We think it’s improving. It’s a large town and it works well for us.’
He said that using social media, as well as having online ordering options has helped to drive the business and has been a key element in their success.
He said: ‘The difficulty with Waterlooville is that the high street isn’t too busy on weekdays, but for us we’ve been able to have the delivery option, so we don’t have to rely on people coming in the door.’
Cherry Doyle, who opened Pukka Pooch Pet Spa and Groomers in Cosham in July, also thanked social media for helping her business succeed.
The 31-year-old said: ‘I see a difference when I get lazy with it, it has a massive impact on my clientele. I don’t know if I would be successful if I didn’t have it.’