Chapel Allerton gift shop owner in plea to Leeds residents to shop local as the increased cost of living hits hard

The owner of an independent gift shop in Leeds is urging people to shop local this Easter as local businesses begin to feel the effects of the increased cost of living.

By Alex Grant
Saturday, 16th April 2022, 4:45 am

Jo McBeath, who runs Chapel Allerton gift shop Chirpy, warned that not using local shops could mean potentially losing them for good.

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Local businesses, many of whom have just got back on their feet following the pandemic, now face a whole new challenge - the rise in the cost of living.

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Jo McBeath, who runs Chapel Allerton gift shop Chirpy, warned that not using local shops could mean potentially losing them for good. Picture: Simon Hulme.

New research released this week revealed that the retail sales growth slowed significantly last month as consumer confidence "continued to sink".

"It's something that we have noticed, people are definitely spending less and not buying the little non essentials." Jo McBeath, told the YEP.

"The message we need to get out is the importance of local shops because we really do try to keep the costs down and do our best for the customers.

"If people don't use local shops then they will lose them so please continue to shop local and shop local online as well."

The latest BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor revealed that total sales increased by just 3.1 per cent in March, slipping back from a 6.7 per cent rise in February. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The latest BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor revealed that total sales increased by just 3.1 per cent in March, slipping back from a 6.7 per cent rise in February.

Experts added that the growth in total sales in March was buoyed by price rises across the sector.

"The cost of living hasn't just gone up for the customers but for us as well so the cost of things like paper bags has gone up, our electricity bill in the shop has quadrupled." Jo explained.

These were concerns echoed by Lily Prescott, co-owner of popular Kirkgate café bar Wapentake.

"A lot of our suppliers have increased their prices but we don't want to increase ours too much so we are actually ending up with a smaller profit margin." she said.

"We don't know what to do because we don't want to push even more difficulties onto our customers but at the same time we are a business and need to be able to survive ourselves."

New figures showed that online non-food sales dropped by 29 per cent over the three months to March as the pandemic-fuelled digital boom continued to recoil.

However, Don Williams, retail partner at KPMG, said that online "penetration rates remain high" as they were compared with a period of shop closures a year earlier.

Meanwhile, total food sales decreased by 2.6 per cent over the three months to March.

For Lily, the cost of living increase is another in a long line blows with many businesses having barely survived the multiple Covid-19 forced lockdowns.

"It feels like we are just constantly getting hit with so many hurdles that we are having to jump over." she said.

"It's just one thing after another so it really is a bit of a kick in the teeth after everything that has happened already."

The rising cost of living and the ongoing war in Ukraine is believed to have shaken consumer confidence, with expectations of people's personal finances over the next 12 months reaching depths not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

Mike Cartwright​, Policy & Representation Executive, for the West Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said:

"The costs of raw materials, hikes in energy bills, not to mention recruitment difficulties causing workforces to be over-stretched, are testing many to the limit. Not all of these costs can be absorbed, and so will need to be passed on.

"We’re lobbying the Government for more financial assistance, especially for small firms and the energy-intensive sector, through our national body, the British Chambers of Commerce, but we’ll have to see how that’s received.”

Experts have warned that households are yet to feel the full impact of the recent rise in energy prices and national insurance changes.