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Independents “are the future,” says Upstairs Downstairs

“We’re putting ads in the local paper – re-opening is almost like re-launching our business. We’re excited, we’re positive and we’re looking forward to a bright future,” enthuses Yossi Gliksman, director of independent cookshop Upstairs Downstairs in Oswestry, which he has run with his wife Raine for 33 years.  He adds: “We can’t wait to get to Exclusively and Autumn Fair.”

In Yossi’s opinion, the earliest reopening date of April 12 in England “is a month too long,” having had expectations of a date in March following schools’ reopening, while understanding the “very difficult situation.”

Yossi reflects on the series of lockdowns, stating: “I can’t understand why we’re not classed as essential. Supermarkets have been selling so much kitchenware.” He also observes that, when recently going to buy compost from a local garden centre: “I had to walk through shelves of bakeware, cookware, tools and gadgets and ask where the compost was. Independent cookshops have just handed over business to garden centres and online!”

However, Yossi is very positive about the opportunities for independent cookshops on reopening: “People will rush to their local shops; these lockdowns have reintroduced ‘localism.’ We have had immense support from local customers when we’ve been open, and I really believe that the next five years will be the best for independents. Anyone who survives the tsnami will benefit.”

Yossi anticipates “a surge of expenditure” as consumers get a chance to shop, but recognises that this will drop “and hopefully settle at a reasonable level.”

Above: Tableware displays inside Upstairs Downstairs. Owner Yossi expects that customers will be keen to get back into local shops when they can next month.
Above: Tableware displays inside Upstairs Downstairs. Owner Yossi expects that customers will be keen to get back into local shops when they can next month.

There are challenges in the months ahead, of course, as Yossi recognises struggles to get some stock: “Everything coming from the far east is hard to get.” Hence, emphasises Yossi, “We have to keep in constant communication with suppliers and work together.”

Brexit is also having a significant adverse impact, says Yossi, with some companies placing surcharges on orders from the EU. “We’re turning into importers – it’s another load of stress plus higher expenses. Prices are going up by at least 10-15%, which is a big increase for independents that want to bring in some products that are different.”

Yossi also points out a post-pandemic cost that might not have been considered by fellow retailers: “I’m not sure if all business owners know the fact that we are all going to be taxed on all the “grants” we received during the pandemic from our government, as it is classed as an income. I wonder about the helpfulness of taxing what has been a life line for most small businesses?”

Above: New carpet and shelves at Upstairs Downstairs.
Above: New carpet and shelves at Upstairs Downstairs.

 

Like many other independents, Yossi has been “upgrading and refreshing” the shop when closed. “In the first lockdown, we changed the carpet in a third of the shop, and did the rest during the second – we’ve waited 20 or so years!” Upstairs Downstairs has also installed new shelves, new signage outside and is now putting new lights in the windows.

“Suppliers need to look after independents – we are the future,” emphasises Yossi. “Britain always was a nation of small independent businesses, and, despite the internet, people still want to come in, chat and make shopping a leisurely experience. My message to people is to stay local, shop local, support local.”

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