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The next few weeks or even months are going to be difficult for independent retailers, restaurants and cafés as self-isolation and social distancing become the norm.  However, innovative local businesses are already adapting to the changes in many ways via initiatives such as local deliveries, take-away orders and gift vouchers..  As it’s more important now than ever to keep our local businesses afloat during this difficult time, we’ve listed a few ways that customers and business owners alike are helping each other.

Offering gift certificates and vouchers is one way that businesses have been adapting to the change and this is apparent for retail stores as well as restaurants and cafés. It’s a simple way for customers to support local businesses, while social media channels and web sites are an ideal way of making customers aware of this option.  Online or postal vouchers mean they can easily access this service without leaving the house. Once normal life resumes, customers have a gift certificate that they can either give to a loved one or use themselves for a purchase, or a voucher for a meal out or coffee at their favourite restaurant or coffee shop.

This is a great option for customers who are thinking about events such as Mother’s Day or Easter. For example, customers who were planning to go out for celebratory meals can instead purchase vouchers to be used at a later date. Offering hampers, meal kits and food at a discounted rate and free delivery for the vulnerable in the community such as the elderly is another way retailers, local pubs and cafés are making sure members of the community are being looked after in uncertain times. This measure also uses up any surplus food due to customers not eating in – many local businesses are already doing this with successful results.

Furthermore, restaurants and cafés are starting to offer take away and collection orders in lieu of customers dining in. This is a safe way for customers to support businesses whilst enjoying their favourite meals.  A growing number of local restaurants and retailers are making customers aware of their new services by posting directly on web sites or on local channels.  Those using a third party delivery service such as UberEats, Just Eat or Deliveroo can  ensure customers can easily order whilst also benefitting from their ready-made infrastructure and delivery drivers who are implementing a no contact policy. Uber Eats is also setting a precedent in the  US and now the UK by abolishing delivery and activation fees.

Drive-through services are also a new way in which local businesses such as garden centres and hardware stores are adapting to the social distancing measures. Offering customers the option to purchase items from their car and have them delivered to their boot, once again removes all personal contact. Additionally, contactless payment methods or online payments are being implemented as a way of avoiding contact and handling cash.

If you’d like to support more local businesses in your area but are not sure what is around you, why not follow an initiative like Small Business Saturday, a grass roots campaign designed to promote small businesses all over the UK, to find more local businesses that could use your custom!

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions, and our community of local, independent businesses are constantly finding new, unique and innovative ways in order to pull through this period of uncertainty. Most significantly, the support of loyal consumers is needed to help businesses at this time.