The rise of independent businesses: Is the era of large chains behind us??

By Beth Thomas

19th Jan 2021 | Local Features

Is the era of large chains behind us?

Independent shops, cafes, and restaurants are becoming an increasingly familiar sight. One spot in particular for this is along Mumbles' Newton Road, with businesses such as Cream, Gin & Tapas, and Chai Deli all being firm favourites of local residents.

At the start of 2020, there were 5.9 million small businesses in the UK, a rise of 1.9 per cent on the previous year. Whilst the pandemic has created many struggles for small business owners, it has also given many people the time to finally put plans in place to create the small businesses they have always dreamt of starting.

More than 95,000 new businesses were created between July and September, according to a recent analysis of VAT, HMRC, Companies House data, and business surveys, marking a 5.3 per cent increase on the same period last year, and a 7.2 per cent increase on the previous quarter.

Hundreds of people were made redundant from their long-standing jobs, or put on furlough and told to stay at home. While some made banana bread, others used the time to pivot their skills and become entrepreneurs. People all over the country pledged to shop local and support small businesses in their time of need.

Amy Gwynn who owns Amy's Personal Paints, a small business specialising in hand painting Gower beaches said: "What's been really exciting for me as a new business owner during the pandemic is seeing how many people want to support local businesses through buying gifts for family and friends they've been unable to spend time with this year."

Shopping local helps to instil a sense of community. It allows customers and business owners to build up trust and a friendly relationship, meaning people are far more likely to keep on coming back. We spoke to Georgia Quick from Cakes and Ale about this.

"No matter what's going on in their personal lives we wanted to ensure that as soon as customers walked through our door, we would do all we could to give them a great time," she said.

"We focussed on quality, serving freshly prepared food, fine wines, colourful cocktails, music, entertainment, and service with a genuine friendly smile. As a result, we've built a fabulous, loyal customer base who love the brand for what it is.

"Unfortunately, the business is currently closed due to tier 4 government restrictions, and the challenge for 2021 is survival.

The cafe-bar takes its name from a quote from Sir Toby in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?"

Ms Quick continued: "If we can get back to a level of normality by Spring, then we can once again open the doors and do what we do best in providing a great experience for all those wonderful customers, who come from far and near to enjoy as Sir Toby did – their Cakes & Ale."

This is an exciting time for new business, with lots of shops and restaurants sadly closing down and buildings standing empty, for those that are able to find investors to back their ideas, there has never been a better time to jump-start your business.

Our towns and cities are going to look very different on the other side of this pandemic, but this could be the shake-up that our high streets have been waiting for.

Corrections and Clarifications

- The original article stated that Cafe Valance was a firm favourite among locals. Cafe Valance has now closed.

- Cakes and Ale takes its name from a quote from Sir Toby in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?" This detail was added after the article was originally published.

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