2020 has been a challenging year for us all and the small businesses of Bacup are no exception.
A survey by SMB Group found that personal services, retail, and hospitality have been the hardest hit. This data was from the US but the findings reflect what we’ve seen in our community, where a large proportion of our high street is made up of these types of businesses- cafés, shops, restaurants and hairdressers. All of whom have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
The challenges of small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic have been unique and unprecedented. In the early weeks of lockdown, many were ordered to close entirely with no idea of when – or if- they might re-open.
Like the rest of us, small business owners have faced uncertainty about the future and fears about the spreading virus, along with the additional challenge of needing to make drastic changes to their business in order to continue operating.
Here’s how they’ve responded to the challenges presented by Covid-19:
Challenge: Reduced footfall through Bacup centre
As people were urged to stay home and only shop for essentials when necessary, the usually lively streets in Bacup town centre grew quieter. With schools closed and many people working from home, commutes and school-runs became a thing of the past for many, reducing the likelihood of people nipping into local businesses on their way to and from work or school.
Instead of waiting for their customers to return, many of our local businesses became proactive at taking their business to the customer instead. In some cases, this was via an increased online presence. Businesses found new ways to reach us, whether through social media or updated websites. In other cases, our local businesses delivered to our doors quite literally, with several of the shops and hospitality venues starting both takeaway and delivery services for the local area.
School children (and grown-ups!) were able to continue getting their sweetie fix when Kandy Corner began making twice-weekly deliveries and the coffee-lovers among us benefited from the takeaway service from 1832.
Challenge: Social Distancing Requirements
As the best-preserved cotton town in England, Bacup’s architecture is an important aspect of the town. As a result, many of our local businesses are housed in small buildings with period details and fascinating histories.
Unfortunately, quaint shops and cosy cafés faced added difficulties when social distancing measures were introduced. The requirement to keep 2 metres apart (or 1+ metre when not possible and where additional safety measures, such as face coverings, are in place) meant that customer capacity was drastically reduced in many cases.
Our local businesses rose to the challenge in a variety of innovative ways. Many of our hairdressing and beauty salons began operating on an appointment-only basis to limit the number of clients in the building at one time. Several businesses installed screens at counters and between tables and utilised floor-markings to make customers aware of their distance. Others implemented one-way systems for shoppers, while a lucky few used outdoor seating to make the most of the glorious Bacup sunshine!
Challenge: The need for PPE and enhanced cleaning regimes
The laws and guidance around the prevention of Covid-19 have changed several times in the last few months, presenting new challenges for small businesses each time.
Face-coverings are now a legal requirement in almost all indoor venues including shops and hair and beauty salons and the government have provided new guidance and protocols for cleaning and disinfection.
Local businesses have complied with the changes to the law, implementing new procedures for staff and customers, such as signing in and out on entry to comply with Test and Trace Requirements, positioning hand sanitiser at convenient locations and wearing appropriate face-coverings for their type of business, whether that’s a clear visor or disposable face mask.
Challenge: A loss of leisure
Initially, with all leisure facilities and indoor meeting spaces closed, it seemed unlikely that activities such as theatre rehearsals, dance classes and community meetings could go ahead. Many Bacup residents, young and old faced a loss of their hobbies, interests and social support networks. This was particularly worrying as social isolation has been shown to negatively impact mental health, not to mention the many benefits of regular physical exercise.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the adaptable nature of those involved, many businesses and community groups have found it possible to continue meeting virtually throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Local actors rehearsing for postponed shows at Bacup Royal Court Theatre have been practising their scripts weekly via Zoom and local dance studio Dansworks offered free online workshops for pupils before getting the go-ahead to re-open in time for their socially-distanced summer school.
BBA meetings have also moved online for the foreseeable future. Details of upcoming meetings can be found here.
Challenge: A shift in customer priorities
When lockdown was introduced back in March, we all faced a sudden shift in our priorities. Things we’d taken for granted- like being able to buy toilet roll or handwash at the supermarket, or going out for drinks with friends at the end of a hard week were suddenly thrown into question.
Many Bacup businesses responded swiftly to our changing needs. Within weeks, we had local shops sourcing and supplying essential products and offering new services such as takeaway food and drinks. Throughout the crisis, we’ve been lucky enough to have a wide variety of delivery services in Bacup, ranging from cocktails and cupcakes to flowers and fry-ups to pies and pizza.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be a worry to us all, but in true Bacup style, our local businesses have met the challenges it has presented head-on. It’s a testament to their determination and spirit that all of our wonderful Bacup business have made it through the crisis so far.
The local community have also played a vital role in helping Bacup businesses survive these challenging times. The success of our high street depends not just upon the
tenacity of business owners but also the support and continued custom of those of us who live or work in Bacup and visitors passing through.
The challenge of Covid-19 looks set to continue for some time yet but Bacup businesses can be proud of their adaptability and resilience at making it this far.
If you’re a local business looking for information, you can find up-to-date government advice for businesses here and please get in touch with us at Bacup Business Association.