IT was a case of big business for small firms as thousands of people shopped locally on Saturday.
Some traders saw takings increase by around a third for this time of year, with footfall on the high street also up by around 30 per cent in places like Marmion Road, in Southsea.
It came as thousands of shoppers took advantage of free parking offers and visited their local shops for the national scheme Small Business Saturday.
Officials at the Federation of Small Businesses estimate the day will have brought tens of thousands of pounds into the local economy and given local traders the boost that many desperately need during challenging times for high street retailers.
The day was supported across the area in Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and east Hampshire, with dozens of businesses putting on special offers and going the extra mile to provide a personalised service to customers.
The News also backed the campaign as part of our Shop Local initiative.
Marie Bell, 48, who runs Glam & Glitz Boutique in Albert Road, Southsea, said takings were up 30 per cent and she was so rushed off her feet she did not stop to take a break until 3pm.
She said: ‘It’s been really busy. I only had my lunch at 3pm because I haven’t stopped. I’m very pleased.’
Colin Telford, who runs The Hayling Island Bookshop in Mengham Road, said the car parks were full and estimated takings were up by about 20 per cent on normal.
He said: ‘People are spending £40/£50 a time which for a small bookshop is quite a lot of money.
‘We have had a lot of customers coming in. Some people travelled specially to support Small Business Saturday. People are taking account of the free parking offer from the council which is very good.’
Gilly McNally, who works at Preview Boutique in Marmion Road, Southsea, said: ‘It’s been one of our busiest days of the year.
‘It’s been a beautiful, sunny day and there’s been a lot of people out.
‘I would say there was 30 per cent more people in the shop today.’
Caroline Collings-Wood, chairwoman of Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire Federation of Small Businesses, said the increase in footfall on Saturday alone had ‘significant value’ to the local economy.
She highlighted places like Milton where you can buy local meat, fruit and vegetables and cakes in one short walk.
‘It’s the independent businesses that increase Gross Domestic Produce in the UK,’ she said.
‘If everyone just spent £1 more per week on an independent, the turnover would be significantly different and it would keep more people employed and more businesses sustainable for the future.
‘Independent traders have a key edge.
‘Not only are their prices more competitive than some of the bigger chains, but their service is far better than what you find in some of the major stores.’
Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, had a busy day as they toured small businesses in North End, Southsea and Hayling Island.
Ms Mordaunt is supporting a national initiative where shoppers are encouraged to buy five gifts from local businesses as part of their Christmas shopping.
She said: ‘We have to remember the bulk of the economy is made up from small businesses.
‘You get a much more personalised experience and quite often the products people are selling are higher quality or unusual.
‘These are the guys that are keeping the NHS going and keeping the education system going. They are heroes. I salute them all.’
Ms Mordaunt, who is also minister for high streets, said they had ‘turned a corner’ but there was still much more that could be done, including in areas like North End and Commercial Road, in Portsmouth.
She said: ‘Places like Cosham just a few years ago were really struggling and looked untidy.
‘There was broken glass and beer cans in planters. We had vacancies there and footfall was falling.
‘Because we have a really vibrant traders’ association they have turned things around.’
Ms Mordaunt praised traders’ associations for going the extra mile to arrange Christmas lights and community events.
Cllr Jones said: ‘Small Business Saturday gives people an opportunity to park free of charge and go back and reconnect with independent retailers and see what benefit they can get from that personal service and by supporting local people and local enterprise.’
Cllr Jones said she regularly uses the shops in Cosham high street, using the local chemists, opticians, hairdressers and hardware store.
She added that there was still some work to do on business rates so they could be controlled more locally.
Cllr Jones said: ‘It is something I am lobbying the ministers for in government to give us more power locally in Portsmouth to be able to set and vary and introduce incentives to different parts of Portsmouth where we could set the business rates a bit cheaper so we can encourage people to come and rent the shops.’