A south Norfolk MP has shown his support for local businesses after visiting independent retailers in Harleston as part of Small Business Saturday.
Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, was on hand at the event held at the weekend, urging the public to support their local independent stores, which coincides with the busiest shopping weekend of the year.
It is the first of its kind to be held in the UK. In America last year the day generated £3.5 billion of sales and long-term custom.
The Federation of Small Businesses, who also supported the day and are running their own Keep Trade Local campaign, were in Harleston on Saturday, with regional chairman and local businessman Robin Twigge visiting a number of small businesses on the day.
Mr Bacon told the Diss Express: “It went well - I think it was a successful day. It was about bringing more focus to small businesses.
“It was just an opportunity for people to notice what it is that small businesses do and how important they are to local communities.
“If we want them (local business) to remain, we need to use them. They provide a level of personal service and quality that you don’t always get from big national chains.
“It is very important for our local economy - I was happy to support Small Business Saturday.”
Janet Harrowven, who has owned lifestyle gift shop Ajandek in Market Place for the past four years, was visited by Mr Bacon and Mr Twigge as part of the day.
“The people of Harleston are very loyal because we are all independent retailers,” she said. “I said to Robin Twigge we ought to have a sticker on the window saying ‘use us or lose us.’
“If local people don’t use the local shops they will be gone - it is as simple as that.”
Mrs Harrowven, who also owned two businesses in Diss - Gadgets Plus.co.uk and Teco, added: “It is the rents and the rates that will kill the smaller businesses. I referenced Diss because I had two businesses there.
“The rents and the rates in the yards were more affordable because of location, but as a small business no-one could start up on the high street.”
Robin Twigge, regional chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Small Business Saturday has enjoyed enormous success in the US, and we hope that UK consumers will be encouraged, not only to ‘shop local’ but also to appreciate all the small businesses in their communities.
“Whilst small firms need support 365 days a year, this day is a welcome boost for many and will introduce the public to a business they may well go on to support in the future.”
Mr Bacon did concede that, while the Government supported local business through the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief, more could be done to aid independent retailers.
“I think more is needed to be done. The level of regulation that small businesses have to put up with is disproportionate . We often have far too much regulation and form filling.
“There are specific measures that the government is taking.
“The biggest difficulties are the levels of rents and the level of business rates. That is a big problem for small businesses and that is why people think we need reform to the business rates system.”