Recession Proofing Local Business

We talk to some of Chiswick's independent traders to find out what they are doing to combat the credit crunch

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The word recession can strike fear into even the most self-assured industrialist and proprietors of small businesses can be excused for trembling more than most. And as Floatopia becomes the most recent independent to go under, other local retailers are taking positive action to ensure that the same does not happen to them.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, fellow Devonshire Road retailer Kirsty Birnstiel admitted that is already seeing signs of credit squeeze. “This year people are more careful with their money,” she said. “A few times people have said they will wait until they get paid and then come back. The times when people didn’t even ask what things cost have gone.”

And like other local traders, Kirsty has taken several steps to recession-proof business including introducing a range of cheaper micro-treatments.

Even in Chiswick’s notoriously vibrant dining scene savvy restaurateurs know that it doesn’t matter how good their restaurant is - if money is tight eating out is one of the first things to be sacrificed. This knowledge has lead to some tempting diners from their homes with ‘too delicious to miss’ offers whilst others offer discounts, 2-4-1 etc.

But as consumers what can we do to help our local independents that make Chiswick so survive the credit crunch? The obvious answer is to make sure that when we spend our money we spend it locally. However, we can take this one step further and ensure that the money spend in Chiswick remains in Chiswick by supporting our resident owner / operators.

Sam Harrison owner / operator of Sam's Brasserie & Bar told “I just think it’s really important that we remember we have genuine independent operators in Chiswick, trying to provide something for the community. There is no doubt that when people begin to feel the pinch, they do tend to cut back on the amount of eating out they do. It means that we have to work even harder to make sure we are delivering in terms of quality of food and service-things that I am checking every day. Chiswick is very competitive in terms of the number of restaurants and therefore we keep working on giving our guests lots of reasons to keep coming back to Sam's"

The view from Turnham Green Terrace’s Andreas Georghiou, and shared by many others, is that traders are also at risk from local government, “I don’t want to whinge on but local independent business is in danger of extinction over the next few years all we want as traders is to share our passion with the consumer and not spend so much time fighting red tape parking tickets and too scared to promote our businesses. Without fear of prosecution mark my words the time for pitchforks and demonstration are nigh,oh I’m coming over all William Wallace like, I can see it now the Battle of Turnham Green Terrace...Traders Revenge!”

His idea for a way forward is for local businesses to support each other so that they can continue to provide an excellent service to the local consumer. He says, “The credit crunch is well and truly upon us and I’d like to take a different view that the doom gloom and general worry. I firmly am of the opinion that periods like this are an excellent opportunity to forge closer business relationships by scratching each other’s backs and being practical, sensible and helping each other out which is why we will be starting a webpage full of our clients if you want to be involved send me an email retail customers in other industries are welcome too.”

Estate agent Christian Harper of Oliver Finn, said “I live in Chiswick and also run a business here. I buy locally because I like to support the community. It’s not entirely altruistic however, as I find you get better service from local businesses. Your customer care needs to be commendable because bad news travels faster than good news. If you make a mistake people won’t go back which makes it essential to get it right first time.

“My favourite local retailers are KallKwik for printing and Sara Stationery on the High Road for office supplies.

“It’s also more convenient to shop in the neighbourhood which is why I bought my company cars in Chiswick. If something goes wrong and I need after-sales service, I just have to go down the road.

“I’m a big fan of Mackens the butchers. Although it’s probably more expensive than the supermarket, you’re paying for quality and you get the feeling they really care about you. You don’t get that in the supermarket. For this reason I’d rather buy my saucepans at Whisk in Devonshire Road than John Lewis.

“Besides it’s a good way to make new friends. It’s always nice to bump into people you know in the High Road and have a chat or share a coffee.”

May 2, 2008