Second national lockdown raises survival fears for independent Leeds shops and businesses

Independent businesses across Leeds say they need the support of the city more than ever if they are to survive the Covid crisis as they prepare to close their stores for a second national lockdown.
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Boris Johnson’s Saturday night announcement, that England is to be plunged into a four-week shutdown from November 5, has dealt a hammer blow to the already struggling local economy in Leeds who have been battling restrictions, curfews and safety fears for months on end.

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Leeds businesses react to forced closures

Now traders have issued a desperate appeal for people to shop local this Christmas and support the city’s independents in any way they can.

Adam Warner, centre manager at the Corn Exchange.Adam Warner, centre manager at the Corn Exchange.
Adam Warner, centre manager at the Corn Exchange.
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From clothes shops to cocktail bars, business owners say swapping a corporate for a local venture just once can make a real difference as traders head into what is usually the busiest time of year.

Samantha Fish runs Rolling Social events and is also head of operations at The Tetley where she said takings have been just ten per cent of what they were this time last year.

She warned that, without the backing of Leeds people, the city’s high street could be left with just corporate chains.

She said: "How do we rebuild this economy if we carry on like this? Independents in Leeds won’t exist, it will become a city of big businesses.

Independent traders in Leeds are calling on the support of Leeds shoppers this Christmas.Independent traders in Leeds are calling on the support of Leeds shoppers this Christmas.
Independent traders in Leeds are calling on the support of Leeds shoppers this Christmas.
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“We are a big independent city. It’s just not going to be as attractive a place to come if people don’t support these independents this Christmas. They just won’t survive.

“I know a lot of operators in Leeds and the struggle is very real for them. It’s quite scary.”

Ms Fish said The Tetley is now preparing to shut down “which in itself is costly” for the lockdown but will look to keep a presence online.

“It will probably completely destroy our Christmas. If we manage to open in December it’s not enough [time] to do our Christmas projects which are our real bread and butter.

“It’s going to have a massive effect on us.

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“We are going to try to do quite a lot digitally, for example art markets and workshops we hope to re-create digitally but the problem with that is the income streams are just not the same.”

She said: “[For us] there is little difference between staying open and closing, that is how bad it is but I am a big believer that we will get forgotten about if you don't try, we have to keep going.

“If you can afford it just take the time to go and find the places that are independent and support it. It will mean the absolute world."

Ms Fish said: “Go online, see what they are doing, see if you can support them in any way. If your partner likes a cocktail masterclass, buy a voucher.

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“It’s the only way the industry is going to be able to be supported.”

She added: “We’re keeping as many staff on as we can, using the furlough and job schemes. But if income doesn’t start to come, we will have no choice. It’s terrifying.

“We’re eight months in and there’s still no finish line - it isn’t in sight at all. That’s the scary thing.”

Ms Fish is also involved with a Christmas market that was set to begin at the Corn Exchange this month and run into December.

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It was hoped the market would help attract shoppers and encourage them to buy from the wide range of independent traders based there.

Centre manager Adam Warner said no decision has yet been made about the Christmas market, since the second lockdown announcement, but added: “We will do everything we can to support our amazing tenants.”

He urged people to buy local in any way they can, saying: “Support your independent businesses whether that’s online now or through takeaway or delivery, if it’s food, or when we are allowed to open in December.”

He added: “It is so important that people support shops and retailers.

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“At this time we have got to support what's real and what actually means something.

“I can only speak for the independents in my building, but they have put their hearts and souls into those businesses, so now, more than ever support them whole-heartedly.”

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