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Tooting businesses hopeful to bounce back after MP’s support campaign

A Tooting MP has launched a campaign to showcase small businesses every week on her social media platforms in a bid to encourage people to buy locally.

MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan launched the ‘Spotlight Saturdays’ campaign which encourages Tooting residents to tag and share their favourite dinner spots, gyms and local businesses on social media to help support them after lockdown.

Dr Allin-Khan said: “With the recent re-opening of non-essential retail, it’s an ideal time to shine a spotlight on the local businesses/business owners that make our vibrant community such a fantastic place to live and work.

“Each week I’ll be showcasing the stores, restaurants, cafes, and other small businesses that make Tooting what it is!

“Look out for ‘Spotlight Saturdays’ on my social media and discover new local businesses to support.”

So far Dr Allin-Khan has showcased businesses including; Chaiwalla, a chai tea fast-food restaurant, Lark London, a family-owned retail shop, and Jefferson’s ice cream shop, another family-run business.

Celine Thompson, 43, co-owner of Jefferson’s ice cream, said: “With regards to COVID we had just passed our one year anniversary and it was pretty much all kicking off. We had to adapt the whole layout and look and feel of the shop.

“With any fledgling business the first year is like being a deer caught in the headlights. It’s busy. It’s frantic. It’s exciting. 

“The pandemic allowed us to have a really good business pause to look back at what we were doing and what we didn’t want to continue with.

“From a business perspective it was incredibly beneficial because it allowed us to take stock of all of these things. 

“Honing in on this early doors probably saved the company. 

“It’s very important that the local government helps support smaller businesses but one of the major things that hit all of us on top of COVID were all of the road changes that were made. 

“We lost a lot of suppliers along the way and we also had to pay for a lot of suppliers to go and park somewhere else.

“We’d like to get bigger but with the same kind of demographic that we’ve already got as we’re from the area. Our kids we’re born in Balham so we know this area really well. It’s all about the local community for us.”

Director of Chaiwalla Sohail Alimohamed, 28 said: “It’s been tough. Getting back into the swing of things has been a challenge.

“As everyone’s not got that much to spend, I think casual restaurants where you can get fed for under a tenner will hopefully thrive.”

The director mentioned that the company has its sights set on the future, as they should soon be launching an app and opening stores in locations including Hammersmith, Wembley, Knightsbridge, Edgware Road and Mitcham.

Alimohamed said: “We’ve got another 186 locations to open over the next three years so there should be at least 4,000 jobs that we’ll produce. There’s a lot of growth in London and we’ve got a number of stores opening in and around London, so it’s a very exciting time for us.”

Co-owner of Lark London, Priya Crowe, 30 said: “Shutting down was awful. Opening up again was amazing.

“Before Christmas I was really sad because a lot of people had to return to their family outside of London and we had to close earlier than expected.

“It’s amazing to open up again because everyone’s been so supportive.

“I think this sort of coverage has helped the idea of supporting local businesses within the community. People are buying more locally than they were ever before.”

Recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that the workforce of all UK businesses on furlough has decreased to 7%. This is around 1.8 million people and the lowest level reported since June 2020.

Findings have also revealed that on the week up to the 5th June 2021, overall retail footfall in the UK saw a weekly increase of 12%. This meant it was at 85% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019.

In the week up to 7th June 2021, the average estimate of UK seated diners was at 147% of its level from the same week in 2019.

Featured Image Credit: Adam Luszniak

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