As the countdown to Christmas begins our thoughts turn to shopping and what special gifts we can buy for our family. In today’s world of online shopping and large retail parks it is easy to overlook the small independent retailer. Last Saturday I spent the morning at Drapers Yard to show my support on Small Business Saturday, which is a campaign to raise the profile of small businesses. If you haven’t been there yet it is well worth a visit with a wide variety of businesses selling individual, artisan items. Also if, like me, you were wondering where the wonderful Taste, from East Street, had moved to, they’ve relocated to Drapers Yard. It’s also a cool place to have a coffee or lunch.
Small businesses are the backbone of our local communities, and it is a testament to them that Chichester’s High Street is the 4th most resilient in the whole of the UK, with an incredible independent sector which is 47% of all businesses.
Our success is not by chance, there is a huge amount of work that goes into ensuring small businesses are supported. Both of our local councils run programmes to promote and support business in our area; along with groups like Chichester BID and Visit Chichester. Chichester District Council supports small businesses and retailers across the area through a variety of projects, including help with capital projects or apprenticeship training and an independent retail support programme to provide specialist retail training and shop front grants.
Last week we welcomed a few of these businesses to Parliament for an event called ‘Taste of West Sussex’ where a selection of independent producers from across the county came and showcased their produce. From the Chichester area we had Frog Hollow, a healthy snack company based in Westbourne, as well as Noble and Stace, a chocolatier who make dangerously delicious chocolates. I actually brought six of their Easter bars for my niece and nephews earlier this year, and I am told they were the best chocolate ever!
Nationally there are 4.8 million small businesses, employing over 14 million people so they’re hugely important to the national economy. This was reflected in the Chancellors Budget with measures such as the £675 million Future High Streets Fund for local councils to develop long term strategies to regenerate the high street such as the Southern Gateway project in Chichester. More good news from the budget was a cut in business rates for small businesses meaning their bills will be slashed by a third over the next two years.
Whether in Midhurst, Chichester or Selsey, small businesses are an intrinsic part of our communities and they need our support so when you’re out shopping next make sure you pop in.