Shop Local: Canning Town traders on how the pandemic has affected business

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 November 2020

Trevor Whenlock from T&J Whenlock butchers. Picture: Nadja Noel

Trevor Whenlock from T&J Whenlock butchers. Picture: Nadja Noel

Archant (taken by workie)

Business owners in Canning Town have emphasised the importance of supporting local traders as an uncertain winter approaches.

Jimmy and Teddy Grainger on their market stall. Picture: Nadja NoelJimmy and Teddy Grainger on their market stall. Picture: Nadja Noel

Small business owners have relied on the support of the community after seeing a downturn in sales caused by the pandemic.

And with the country placed into a second lockdown, and another month of closure for businesses deemed non-essential, the future of the high street remains unknown.

Trevor Whenlock, owner of T&J Whenlock butchers, has been trading in Barking Road for 20 years.

Regular customers have started to place orders for Christmas but government restrictions add a level of uncertainty.

Pamela Hughes in the Abbey Pub. Picture: Nadja NoelPamela Hughes in the Abbey Pub. Picture: Nadja Noel

He said: “Obviously we don’t know how it’s going to go. People can’t get together. Business would pick up if we could get people coming in from outside the area, bringing in money.”

He is concerned that a lack of parking in the area prevents more people from shopping in Barking Road - a view shared by father and son fruit stall holders Jimmy and Teddy Grainger.

Jimmy has run the stall for 20 years and said: “Parking is a big issue. We’ve had people who pop round, get a ticket and then they don’t come back.”

But the pair have also noticed positive changes, with people working from home has given the stall a vital boost.

Frank Wade outside Abbi Florists. Picture: Nadja NoelFrank Wade outside Abbi Florists. Picture: Nadja Noel

“They see us now in the week, when they wouldn’t have normally,” Jimmy said. “We’re seeing more trade.”

Confusion over Covid rules kept some people away, according to Pamela Hughes, bartender at The Abbey pub.

“Every time the rules change we follow them but it’s very confusing for people,” she said.

The pub has a beer garden and a large bar with lots of seating and tables inside. But restrictions in place prior to the November lockdown meant only 50 customers have been allowed at one time.

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“On October 30 the West Ham game was on TV and normally it’s really busy, but we had to turn people away,” Pamela explained.

Despite fewer customers, the pub has been having to factor in greater staff costs.

“Before we could manage with just one person at the bar but with table service we need more people,” she said.

“We do our best to keep things going. I think people are fed up and end up staying at home but the regulars were still coming in.

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen this Christmas. Hopefully we’ll be open.”

Frank Wade, who has been the owner of Abbi Florists for 25 years, has seen steady business from loyal customers.

“We’ve been all right,” he said. “When people are fed up they buy flowers to cheer themselves up.

“But there’s not enough decent coffee shops to bring people to the area and we need them.”

Despite the uncertainty, independent shops are doing all they can to remain in business.

When the Recorder visited BJ’s Pie and Mash shortly before the lockdown there was a queue of lunchtime regulars.

Owner Nathan Jacobi has run the business for 37 years and said that he had been operating with reduced hours.

He has noticed a change in people’s eating habits, adding: “When McDonald’s reopened there was a big queue but that’s gone now. I’ve seen more people coming in here now.

“People want fresh food, they’re being healthier in what they have and what they do.”

“I think it’s about convenience. People go to the supermarket or big shops but they’re probably safer if they stay local.”

As restrictions force people to spend more time at home and change the way we shop, communities have the chance to rediscover their high streets and the independent business who rely on their vital support.

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