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Shop Local: Another lockdown ‘major concern’ for high street traders in Crouch End and Muswell Hill

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:45 22 October 2020

Aimee Gilbert-Bratt at the Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill. Picture: Joshua Thurston

Aimee Gilbert-Bratt at the Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill. Picture: Joshua Thurston

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“If you ask any retailer, it’s the last three or four weeks before Christmas where you make your money, and I honesty don’t know how it’s going to go.”

Kim Dawson, from antiques and vintage shop Junk N8 Disorderly. Picture: Joshua ThurstonKim Dawson, from antiques and vintage shop Junk N8 Disorderly. Picture: Joshua Thurston

That is the message heard loud and clear from independent shops in Crouch End and Muswell Hill.

Supportive communities and sensitive customers are keeping independent shops in Crouch End and Muswell Hill going, according to the 13 business owners who spoke to this newspaper at the launch of a Shop Local campaign, but the unknowns are piling up.

For shops as diverse as children’s toyshop Soup Dragon in Crouch End Broadway and the eclectic antiques shop Junk N8 just along Park Road, the pandemic has forced them to adapt.

“It’s very, very up and down,” Nikki McAuliffe from Soup Dragon said. “Our shop sales are definitely down quite considerably on last year. But we are in quite a fortunate position and have a very comprehensive online offering at the minute. Our shop is both a shop and a warehouse now.”

Cachao Toys in Muswell Hill. Picture: Joshua ThurstonCachao Toys in Muswell Hill. Picture: Joshua Thurston

Adam Bloom, who runs House of Books in both Crouch End and Muswell Hill said using the pandemic to refurbish seemed to have paid off and added: “I think we are doing okay. It’s really hard to gauge. Normally summer’s pretty hard, we would have lots of people going away. This year I think the high street has actually been a bit busier, but obviously the major concern is that we get another lockdown and have to shut.”

Kim Dawson of Junk N8 also said she has adapted her shop to better make use of space.

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“It’s very tough. The business has taken such a big hit. This time of year people will normally be buying in order to get ready for Christmas.

“The thing is to encourage customers to come. We have a steady stream of customers who are very loyal to us but we’ve probably not seen as many new people.”

Traders such as Sanchita Basu De Sarkar, who runs the Children’s Bookshop in Fortis Green Road, and Nicolas Peponnet, of boutique Little Paris in Park Road, said uncertainty over the crucial Christmas season is a real problem.

All 13 shop owners surveyed said public support has been vital during the pandemic.

This comes as part of a new Shop Local campaign launched by this newspaper. Sanchita told the Broadway: “As much as possible, if people want bookshops on their high street and they want these lively independent businesses, they need to keep supporting us.”

Nicolas added: “Our customers have been very supportive but they need to continue to shop locally if they want us to stay. They realised this during lockdown, I think, and hopefully it will continue.”

Jennie Hogg who runs Cachao Toys in Muswell Hill Broadway told this paper: “Right now it’s a challenge on a daily basis. I feel there’s definitely more footfall, and it does feel that more people are shopping locally.”

Jennie, like 90 per cent of the Haringey business owners we spoke to added the high street could offer more than online shopping.

“I have always been of the position that I’ll do anything I possibly can for a customer,” she said. “If that’s ordering things especially for them, I’ll do that. I can’t stand not offering a personal service.”


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