I started the www.cambridgelocalshops.co.uk project in March 2020 as the UK faced lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With customers unable to visit their premises many local shops were changing how they operated. Some started offering delivery or timed collections, others explored creating online shops. I wanted to support both businesses and my local community by helping shops and customers keep in touch with each other.
The idea is to provide any local shops (independents, small outlets of national brand supermarkets, pubs and cafes that are restructuring their businesses, etc) with a free way to get the word out to customers they usually see face-to-face. And, of course, it’s a way that local people can find their ‘usual’ shops without having to leave the house.
Local businesses changing fast
It now features over 80 outlets – and it’s been a privilege to have a ringside seat as businesses adapt to serve their local communities and find ways to stay operational. Businesses have changed fast…
- Cafes are now offering home delivery of baked goods
- Corner shops are keeping in touch with elderly and housebound people to ensure they can order goods easily
- Delivery companies are adapting to support smaller customers
- Some shops are organising a delivery network to a particular house in a street and the residents then distribute goods to neighbours
- Pubs with kitchens are sometimes doing home delivery of cooked food, but also adding in grocery items to order as well
- Some outlets are supporting their community by (for example) cooking a meal for a key worker / local family in need for each meal ordered by a customer.
I’ve kept the site simple – other organisations offer paid listings for specific types of businesses (in the case of Cambridge UK Indie Cambridge brilliantly covers artisanal local businesses, for example) and voucher schemes to encourage people to shop with their members.
I’ve only promoted it on twitter but others have shared it on other social media and many local community groups have shared it on their sites or email newsletters to help their neighbours find their local shops and food outlets.
The site is designed using the lovely, flexible GeneratePress theme for WordPress and uses the WSForm Pro plugin to make it easier to add shops automatically. Topher DeRosia contributed skills and time to add a business listing feature that make it much easier to manage behind the scenes. The logo was given to the project by KaboCreative (they created it for a sister site: stivesandvillages.co.uk). Zedify, Cambridge’s local bike couriers, did a big leaflet drop to homes early on, and the University of Cambridge provided printed leaflets at cost. Unsplash.com was the free source of the various shop and food images.
A huge thank you to all the people and organisations who chipped in with time, skills, and more.