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Covid challenged small shops, but also offered opportunities

Rosie Evans/YJI

Liverpool, UK – The pandemic thrust businesses around the world into uncertainty. Lockdown especially impacted small businesses, which are often sole traders, selling in cafes, independent shops and at craft fairs.

As a result of government guidelines, many small shops had to completely change the way they work, providing new challenges and obstacles for the community.

Unfortunately, some companies had to shut down altogether, which is heart breaking for the entrepreneurs and customers.

The future – financially unclear – seems devastating for some but offers new prospects to others. 

Having been fortunate enough to grow my small business over the past year, I think lots of customers have been more receptive to online shopping and encountering independent shops over the internet. 

But this was difficult for lots of companies with few employees or limited experience in digital marketing.  

Charlotte Bull, the owner of CK Design, spoke about her experience opening a business in lockdown. 

“I found a lot of confidence in producing my own work that people wanted to purchase,” said Bull “It was extremely mindful and positive as it kept me busy and helped me commit to a project I am passionate about.”  

Bull predominantly sells exquisite silk-dyed scarves, and her website brings focus to combining quality sustainable materials with contemplative design.

In recent months, she said, more people have been vaccinated and the UK has come out of lockdown, which led to some online-based businesses seeing a decline in sales as the population turns to in-person retail therapy, real life markets and craft fairs. 

But she shared her hopes that people who bought from small online shops over the past year will continue to do so. 

“I do believe that there will be kind of a force behind small businesses, shopping sustainable, shopping small.” 

For consumers who want to support small companies and online shops without purchasing, Bull emphasized the importance of commenting and engaging on social media and Etsy with small business owners, or by sending an email. These conversations can spark collaborations, she said, adding that social media is a great platform for networking.  

I agree with Bull. Even if someone is not currently able to purchase a product, receiving a simple message from them online to say that they like a product can be incredibly motivating, unless it ends with the individual asking for free products. That doesn’t work!

One of the cards that the author sells online.

The online business community is constantly growing and evolving, but the connections make it – for the most part – welcoming, friendly and resilient to all the change going on in the world.  

For many independent businesses, the pandemic created new obstacles, but also offered new opportunities for growth and expansion.

Is this change going to be consistent? We can’t be sure, but I hope that customers will continue to shop small and support new business ventures.

Rosie Evans is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International. 

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