Surviving lockdown (2) – when the community steps in.

How a local community supported a business during lockdown.

My last blog about business Lockdown Heroes was about how a local delicatessen and cafe changed its business model during lockdown to support the local community. As we prepare for a second lockdown in the UK, it seems right to revisit Lockdown Heroes. This blog celebrates the power of the community in saving a local business.

The Handyman, an independent hardware store in Queensbury, Bradford, was established in the late 1960s. However, like many local independent stores, the impact of the big retail chains had slowly lured customers away. Sales were already in decline when Mark Walton took over The Handyman 6 years ago, the last two years being particularly difficult. Then, one day, during the first lockdown, Mark confided with a customer that that lockdown might be the end of his business. As a result of this conversation, Jamie Bingham, a local locksmith, posted the following on the Queensbury Village – The Official Group Facebook page.

The Handyman, Queensbury

“Today I visited The Handyman shop on Queensbury high street for a few decorating bits… I asked him how he was and he said that due to other large stores closing or selling out of things business had picked up for him slightly but he said he spends most days stood wondering/worrying how he can make those new visiting customers come back?? 🤔 He has no access to social media and was genuinely at a loss ….. hence my post! He literally sells everything from fire wood to decorating – hardware to mops and clothes dyes!!!! If you are close or passing and need anything – instead of queuing for an hour outside a huge store – call here – this will be appreciated much more!!!! #supportlocal

A flurry of affirming posts followed as local people took to Facebook, describing the hardware stores as an Aladdin’s Cave.  It was clear they appreciated Mark’s knowledge and help. Despite reducing his opening hours during lockdown, David began to see more customers trickling in. The tide was turning…

I suggested that perhaps this could be a project for a recent graduate or student to set up a Facebook or webpage page for The Handyman as part of their portfolio. Others had similar ideas and one young man, Jack Simpson, who runs his own business called Glassroots, offered to set up a Facebook page for the business, free of charge. Within days, over 4000 people began to follow The Queensbury Handyman’s Facebook page. Another local, Craig Hawes, who runs Bees Knees IT, showed Mark how to use social media and reply to messages.

Not surprisingly, Mark was delighted and extremely touched that people like Jack and Craig were prepared to help him out without expecting anything in return.

Since their help, Mark has seen his sales double.  Time will tell if this will continue. Let’s hope it does.

As Mark notes

“Support the little businesses. It isn’t always cheaper to go to one of the big boys. Little shops, even if they don’t have it in, they can usually get it. Once these stores have gone they might never come back. We might never see these little shops again.”

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