The Vale of Glamorgan's Premier Lifestyle Magazine

Ten Ways You Can Support Small Vale Businesses This Summer

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It’s early July and we’ve just had the news that non-essential shops can reopen – and hair salons are merely weeks away (although it seems like an eternity). I won’t bore you with the caveats. No doubt if you live in the Vale of Glamorgan, or Wales, you’ll be watching the news at some point and possibly believe that normal, or the “new normal” as it’s fondly known, is not far away.

Jennifer Hobbs-Roberts Green Door
For many, this is good news. You’re probably wondering why I’m not saying it’s great news. No, this is merely good news. Leaving lockdown behind is a positive thing but, for some, this whole episode has been immensely tragic. We are fortunate at this point, no one very close to us has died. But we are aware of friends and family who have lost people they care deeply about. Our thoughts are with them. Bereavement is bad enough but with the possibility that the pain and heartbreak could have been avoided somehow will leave some with terribly conflicted feelings of guilt, anger and sadness.

For the businesses of the Vale, and we’re one of them, it has been simply devastating. The large corporates? Well, they will probably bounce back. For the small independents, it may not be so easy. We already know of several who will not be opening their doors again. They are exhausted. They fought bravely to keep their businesses open for years. They have been battered by the economy. They have been hammered by rates and high rents and they have begged for customers support but the reality is we haven’t all been in their corner supporting them. For those, sadly, they’re days and dreams are done. Many people will see it as a relief, the pain will be over and, with positive thoughts  in their minds, new beginnings will emerge at this fork on their road. For others the defeat will be so devastating it will take years, if not decades, to put themselves back together emotionally.

So how do we look after our independents in the “new normal”? Reassuringly, it’s quite easy, you support them. For the Vale’s independent retailers, we can rein in our online buying habits. Here are ten areas we can all make a difference:

Meat and fish…

How many of us continue to buy mass-packed meat that has traveled tens of thousands of miles? Quite a lot. Price is an issue but quality surely is what matters. We probably all eat too much of it anyway. So, perhaps, buying from a local butcher instead might be a more sustainable and conscientious option. We probably purchase the majority of our meat now from local butchers in Penarth and Rhoose. If more of us did, then that money would circulate locally.

Fish is a little trickier, but there are fishmongers around – we just need to make the effort. You can buy mail order now from small fishing boats – it’s worth taking the time to research.

Fruit and vegetables…

I have watched small independent fruit and veg shops struggle over the last five years. We owe them a lot. If they hadn’t been open during the pandemic, we’d have all been queuing outside supermarkets. Some have done a roaring trade and, for some, it really has saved them from bankruptcy. The quality is better too. I know I bang on about it, but it just is. We should be using supermarkets for what they are – places to buy bulk everyday goods at cheaper prices. We should also be looking at where their products come from. Sustainability is everything.

You can also grow your own. We’ve taken the opportunity to grow vegetable during lockdown and plant several fruit trees in our garden. There is no better food than food you grow yourself.

Milk and eggs…

In the Vale, there are plenty of smallholdings and farm shops selling eggs. We still have local dairies who will deliver. The clink of bottles is a healthy sound in the morning and they sell other things too. Find a local dairy. Make the change – even if it’s just on the weekend! Even that will make a positive impact on the local economy. And you can keep chickens if you have a reasonable sized garden. Children love to get involved. It’s the good life!

Vale Life Bryl's Boutique
Boutiques and fashion…

Sorry, this was always going to be next in line for me. I love clothes. Buying online is super convenient; I get it, I do it myself. But I also make a point of supporting local, independent boutiques. I like the social aspect. I like browsing. I like trying things on. It’s a buzz, and I don’t get that buzz when I shop online. We have some excellent boutiques in the Vale. Here’s a recent feature we did that lists ones that offer excellent customer service. They need your support.

Cards and gifts…

We have plenty of really good card and gift shops right across the county. These businesses add value, colour and depth to our high streets. next time you want to buy a card, try an indie. leave the supermarket for food and essentials. make a point of buying cards in bulk from small business. Let’s face it, birthdays and anniversaries come around like clockwork. Spending £20 in an independent card or gift shop won’t break the bank but imagine if a thousand of us did that next week! £20,000 straight into the local economy – not some faceless shareholder’s dividend. It just requires a small shift in behaviour and the local high street would be really buzzing.

2020 VL SP Happy Days Vintage
Books and magazines…

If you love reading like I do, then you’ll probably buy a lot from Amazon. It is convenient I grant you. But what if, in the future, we didn’t buy all our books from the supermarkets or Amazon. What if we actually ordered the books we want from our local book shop. That would ensure their survival. Again, they add colour to our high streets. And I like browsing. They know about books so they can suggest authors in a particular genre. They can order an book on the planet. Every book has a unique number (ISBN – International Standard Book Number). If you have the title, author or ISBN number, any bookshop can order it. Don’t get me wrong, I like Amazon but support a local book shop when you can.

At Vale Life we don’t benefit from magazine sales. Yes, you could subscribe to us, or any other magazine, but if you go to your local newsagent, they can order it for you if it has a cover price and an ISSN number. Some newsagents even deliver (remember paper boys and girls?). Same for newspapers. If you really are worried about fake news then supporting your local newspaper is a really positive thing to do. Who else is going to highlight local issues or take the authorities to task? Facebook? I don’t think so.

Hair and beauty…
We’re all desperate to get back to the salons so they shouldn’t have too much trouble getting business. however, they are going to have to work particularly hard to accommodate the social distancing guidelines which will probably mean us (their customers) being a little more flexible when it comes to appointments. Also, don’t be surprised if their prices rise a little. All this preparation has cost them a lot to implement.

Estate agents…

Selling your home? Buying a home? Use local. Use an independent. Leave the chains alone – there’s every chance you’ll be a small fish in a big pond when it comes to service anyway. The rise of online companies really frustrates me. They rarely have any local knowledge and, usually, when you look at their fees (which always appear cheap at the outset), they are pretty comparable with a local agent (some online companies even work out more expensive in the long run). So why support a company that has its head office somewhere else in the UK when you could be supporting local? It makes no sense economically. Most local agents promote using Right Move, Zoopla and OnTheMarket (others are available too), so there’s no real need to move away from your local estate agent (excuse the pun).

Restaurants and cafes…
Some restaurants have stayed open during lockdown and looked after our sanity by offering ta takeaway service. Keyif did in Penarth. Also Hilary & Iain’s in Ogmore, and several others. Hear that? Yes, we’re clapping. So please support them going forward. As I write this, there is no mention of lockdown easing enough so they can open but, hopefully, we should hear some good news in the next few weeks. They will really need your support so, first chance you get, book a table.

Tourist attractions and hotels…
Is this the year of the staycation? Let’s hope so. It’s good that we’re flying again but, realistically, we could be spending our money here in the UK. That would certainly benefit our local, regional and national economy. Here in the Vale, we have some great attractions. So please give them your support. If you’re looking for a romantic weekend, it could be half an hour away. Even a thirty minute drive in the Vale can change the scenery dramatically.

46-Magenta 2018 HiRes-4260
And don’t forget all our service providers and tradespeople…

It’s time to ditch the national apps. All the expertise you’ll ever need is right here in the Vale. From electricians to financial advisors and plumbers to personal trainers, florists and dog groomers – every service you’ll ever need is right here on our doorstep and they’re brilliant at what they do.

Craig and Julian Parker-Trott
There’s an old saying: charity begins at home. Now more than ever we really need to look after our local. The key word here is ‘begins’. We can support others but let’s make sure our priority is caring for and supporting those close to us.

Love the Vale. #ValeLife

Images copyright Mark Roberts (except ’96 Degrees’ above Restaurants and Cafes which is by Sian Owen). Magenta image was also supplied.

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