Cardiff’s independent shops put their businesses online in order to survive during the pandemic

Small business are more likely to sink in a mire of bankruptcy than large shops. Can online shops save Cardiff small businesses?

The Norwegian Church in which handmade items are sold. (Photo by Rufei Ou)

Pauline Lomax is one of the 14 artists and artisans of The Gallery Gift Shop. Because of the lockdown, the Church has closed completely. She and her colleagues set up a webpage, hoping it can help them to keep in touch with their customers.

“We are missing our customers and meeting the public from our time there. We are all trying to survive online. We recently set up our own website to ensure that people could contact us,” said Pauline.

Local artists and artisans have been trying to support each other by sharing and commenting on each other’s work on their Facebook group St Fagans Makers Market and @Cymruwrthgalon.

The Gallery Gift Shop is connecting with customers online (Photo from The Gallery Gift Shop)

Online shopping is no stranger to us today. Lockdown is prompting this trend in Cardiff. Therefore, E-commerce become an alternative option for retailers in this circumstance. In August 2020, Angharad Walters started a Twitter account named All things Wales to support independent Welsh businesses. At the beginning, she has spent many hours to find small independent Welsh businesses on the internet and social media platforms to promote.

“I took me a while to take the plunge and it’s been a real labour of love, but it’s one of the things I am most proud of,” she said.

Artists and artisans of The Gallery Gift Shop (Photo from: The Gallery Gift Shop)

Vintage shops are popular in Cardiff. In recent years, many people like to find interesting vintage items which look very special and are money-saving. However, there is no chance for people to search for treasures in vintage shops and markets.

Louise Murray and Stacey Salter run their vintage shop Raspberry Bazaar online for many years. They started the shop because they absolutely adore old things and love recycling. Before the pandemic, they put stuff into eBay more for fun, but it has really become a business now.

Louise and Stacey are passionate about rescuing treasures from landfill and reducing waste. (Photo from Stacey Salter)

“Everything’s been shut down and we’ve just really put our hearts into it but it,” said Stacey.

For them, online is the easiest way to run their vintage shop as Stacey works full time and Louise is severely disable and is unable to work full time. Running the shop online is more flexible for them.

“I think online is probably the easiest way to sell now because you can source items from all over the world,”

The lockdown does not really affect them so much. They just need to be more careful of cleaning the stuff.

“All of our packaging has been sectioned off for a few days to make sure there’s nothing on there. We are as careful as we can be with any kind of guidelines that we have to follow,” said Stacey.

Louise is very intrigued in looking old things and puts her heart in mending them and find them a new home. (Photo from Raspberry bazaar)

In addition to selling vintage items, Stacey and Louise support other small local businesses which produce natural materials and items using recycled materials.

“We don’t buy a lot of our stock online. We do buy quite locally because we want to support their global businesses,” said Stacey.

Although virtual shops enable local shops to sell their products to customers outside Cardiff even to other countries, the proportion of these is relatively small and the items could be lost during delivery.

“I have established a website and sell across the UK. I was selling to Europe, Canada and the USA. Not much but some. But the hassle of lost items has made me rethink this and I am sticking to the UK only.” said Pauline.

Pauline thinks reputation and recommendations are critical to the success of any business. So, she is always keen to receive good reviews and feedback. (Photo by Pauline Lomax)

“Supporting locals has become more important during this time. I for one bought most of my gifts from Welsh producers.”

Although shopping online is convenient and there are more options, after the lockdown in Wales in November last year, people flocked to the shops and Cardiff Christmas market.

“Consumers often have a need to touch products and many find pleasure in the sensory stimulation of visiting a shop, which clearly can’t be replicated online.” Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, Reader in Consumer Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University.

The lockdown restrictions in Wales are about to be relaxed. Many shops may be allowed to open soon. But the hard time for local businesses is still going on.

“People are now more conscious about supporting their local businesses and this seemed like a simple way for us to grow and sustain the Welsh economy, by keeping our hard-earned money here in Wales.” said Angharad.

“It’s my aim is to put Wales on the map and to give those living away from home, a platform to continue to ‘buy Welsh’. The saying ‘Yma o hyd’ is very apt at this point in our lives and Welsh businesses are still very much here and ready to do business.”