Small Business Saturday: When it’s gone, it’s gone – shopkeepers of the future, hurry

Published · 2 min read

In 1900, Burnley was one of the fastest growing towns in the UK. Powered by the cotton boom, it was often said that Burnley “clothed the nation before breakfast and the rest of the world after”.

Fast-forward little over a century later, just one steam powered mill remains – a museum that preserves the town’s proud but faded industrial history.

The Leeds-Liverpool canal still cuts through the town like the motorway of its day and the decreasing population (25,000 fewer people live in the town than in 1900) can still be found every Saturday at Turf Moor, the proud home of Burnley Football Club.

It’s in Burnley, across from its majestic town hall, that I bought a four-story Georgian building back in 2012 – and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it.

Insight into the small business world

With its double-height ceilings, a grand stone facade and original staircases leading to the upper floors, I paid less for the building than you’d imagine. But more than getting a gem of a building, I also gained two businesses as part of the purchase, becoming the proud landlord of a hairdressers and a sandwich bar.

My purchase of the building has made me more and more aware of the daily trade-offs business owners make.

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In three months, the owner of the sandwich shop will be retiring. For years she has provided employment for three others and has put her heart and soul into the business. With great pride, the owner has painted, decorated and restored the ground floor into an A-grade shop.

Just like my Dad’s business, not one buyer has been found for the sandwich shop – another small business that is about to close for good.

So if yet another small business is about to close, where are the shopkeepers of the future?

Space for independent shops?

Have we persuaded everyone that only online entrepreneurs represent the future? Does nobody want to get their hands dirty anymore?

Frankly, we don’t hear enough about shopkeepers and small business owners that look like the ones in my home town. It raises the question: Is there still room for the independent shop?

I believe there is. For a few years now, Small Business Saturday has championed our hairdressers, our sandwich makers and countless other go-getters who decided to take a risk and start their own businesses. I’m always striving to celebrate our nation of shopkeepers and Small Business Saturday gives us the perfect opportunity to do so.

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