Shoppers urged to 'find it in Shropshire', as independents fight back online

Online shoppers have been issued a rallying cry to "find it in Shropshire", as businesses throw everything into using the web to fight back against the coronavirus pandemic.

Stacey Hill from Oberon in Shrewsbury has been entertaining customers with her videos
Stacey Hill from Oberon in Shrewsbury has been entertaining customers with her videos

Traders have come to the fore with innovative, creative and quirky uses of the internet to give them a boost in the marketplace, and Shropshire Chamber of Commerce chairman Richard Sheehan has urged shoppers to show their support at what would normally be the busiest and most lucrative time of year.

He said: "If you can find it online, find it locally online.

"It's really important to support our local business community. You are reaching people who are having a really difficult time, people who might have risked everything and who are relying on banks and the government for their livelihood.

"If you're buying something online, try and find a Shropshire business."

He added: "I think all of us in any sort of business knew the digital revolution was well underway.

"Covid-19 has accelerated that dramatically. People have become creative and innovative and have found new ways of presenting their products and engaging with customers.

"Some have experienced significant growth, but there are an awful lot of businesses that need support.

"We're looking to see how we can support them in any way possible.

"Online is here to stay, and we've seen growth in online sales of around 18 to 20 per cent before lockdown.

"I don't think it really matters what sector you're in, you've got to have a powerful, up-to-date online presence.

"There are now numerous ways of creating your online presence now, and some are more cost effective than others. We will come out of this having embraced new technology."

Videos

One of those traders to embrace the web is Stacey Hill, who owns fashion retailer Oberon in Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury.

She has been making customers laugh with her cheeky videos on social media.

She said: "I just wanted to do something that caught people's attention.

"Everyone is doing stuff on social media at the moment and I wanted to do something that reflected my personality.

"It certainly does mean something to me when people buy something."

She hired a spare pair of hands to help her with drumming up interest online, but believes that when lockdown is lifted people are likely to be keener to visit independents in person.

"People come to us because they like the people that work here," she said.

"We try and make it as fun as possible online, and I am excited every time they click, but Shrewsbury's a special town and you have to come here to appreciate it."

Likewise, Richard believes that once lockdown is lifted, shoppers will be keen to visit town centres again for the social aspect as much as anything, but insists any guidance for reopening should be issued early and clearly by the government.

"I think what we've seen developing for a long time now is that it's about the high street becoming a destination," he said.

"It's about social gatherings and eating and drinking as well as shopping.

"Because of the constant chopping and changing of regulations, it's very difficult to plan.

"Some businesses might have stock that is seasonal and will effectively go out of date, or perishables.

"Businesses need people to understand their difficulties and for guidance to come early so they can make plans."

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