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With a new Covid-19 variant, ongoing supply chain shocks, labour shortages and rising costs – not to mention the festive celebrations that are just around the corner – the fine food industry has a lot on its plate.
But this weekend, independents will be in the spotlight as Small Business Saturday rallies support from shoppers and reveals the hard work and dedication that has driven small businesses forward through the past 18 months. “Small businesses work incredibly hard to serve their customers, staff and communities,” said Michelle Ovens CBE, director of Small Business Saturday UK. “They don’t ask for recognition, but they deserve it hugely, particularly for the way they go above and beyond to help people, particularly throughout this pandemic.”
Not only does the campaign offer local retailers the chance to shout about their achievements, but it is also a huge sales opportunity. Last year, a record-breaking £1.1bn was spent with small businesses across the UK, according to research from principal UK supporter American Express. In 2020, the annual event also trended at number one in the UK on Twitter and received support from leading politicians and 90% of local councils. “Small Business Saturday is a chance to put the spotlight on amazing small businesses across the UK and celebrate their awesome achievements. Whatever your business, whatever your size and wherever you are in your journey, Small Business Saturday is for you and it is your chance to shine.”
Speciality Food has celebrated the inspiring stories of independent retailers throughout the pandemic, from how they led the way with safe and enjoyable customer experiences to their work championing artisan producers.
Independents also played a crucial role in supporting their local communities in a time of need – something which is hugely important to the businesses involved in Small Business Saturday this year, like Ruth Redgate who founded the online farmers’ market Mercia Food Hub. She told Speciality Food her work is all about advocating for suppliers and sustainability. “The online farmers market enables my customer to purchase from small producers that champion regenerative farming, providing seasonal local food and alternatives to a mass produced ultra-processed diet,” she said. “We work to reduce food miles and food waste, ordering only what is needed and having one delivery, not many from each producer.”
Creating connections is all part of the independent retail experience as well, Ruth explained. “Being able to offer this service to my community is something I’m extremely passionate about, and to see my customers stopping and chatting to each other when they collect their orders is a joy to behold, especially when they are swapping hints and tips with someone they have only just met. New friendships have been made, something I remember from years ago when visiting the local shops with my mom.”
Maurizio and Sweet D’Appollino, who run the independent Italian restaurant Maurizio Dining & Co in Cambridge, also recognise the power of connecting over a good meal. The business not only builds community with its customers, but it also supports other local start-ups with pop-up events in the restaurant. “Food and drink is a delicious way to bring family and friends together, and that’s something we very much enjoy,” they told Speciality Food. “Evviva la dolce vita!”
Food and drink producers are also championing causes close to their hearts. Ellis Gin, a range of coloured and flavoured gins, was created by Carol Jackson in 2018. Having built up her business over the years, she is now looking into how she can offer sustainable solutions, like reusable bottles. Elsewhere, Tamsin Robinson of Bakester Box, a gourmet home baking kit, is keen to support other independents. “I use small businesses as suppliers where possible as we all support each other and hope to grow together,” she said. Through collaborations, small businesses can build stronger communities – and businesses. “Community gives me a sense of camaraderie and often the motivation to ensure my small business thrives,” Tamsin said.
Are you getting involved with Small Business Saturday? Get in touch with email@example.com