Ding dong merrily online, in Norfolk tills are ringing
- Credit: Archant
Father Christmas might be put out of a job this Christmas by the familiar sight of a delivery courier on the doorstep.
Instead of spending the weeks in the run up to Christmas hitting the high street, shoppers are instead turning to their devices and letting someone else do the legwork.
Online sales are continuing to boom this month and the county's independents are optimistic that the trend will continue next year.
Having a website has saved countless business during the lockdown and is now providing a safety net of demand for many on a permanent basis.
One business which has been so successful online that is now having to consider freezing orders is the Norfolk Deli in Hunstanton.
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The shop and cafe has seen requests peak at 500 a week - where they previously might have taken 50 a month.
Co-owner Rosie Kacary said: "It has been absolutely insane. Not only are we running out of our own stock for the shop but we're buying up all of our supplier's stock too - it's getting to the point that when it's gone it's gone so we might have to stop taking orders.
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"Of course it's brilliant - having a website saved our business during the pandemic. We've now got the best of both worlds because people can come in and look at the products and then order online for themselves or as presents as well. I'm optimistic than in 2021 we might have more orders than previously because people have got into the habit.
"My main piece of advice for businesses who are considering getting a website is having a web developer who is responsive and can make quick changes on the back end if you don't have the expertise to do it yourself. Anyone can build a website but having those skills on board are so helpful."
At the Norfolk Olive Tree Company owners Antonia and Paul Smith closed their shop in Riverside Road earlier this year to keep up with online demand.
Mrs Smith said: "I was sitting in the shop by myself with no one coming in at weekends and when I had other things I could be doing for the business. I can now focus on the web side of things more flexibly - working into the evenings from home and spending more time actually growing things in the nursery.
"We're still up 30pc in our web orders compared to the start of the year - and I think the thing I've learned the most is how to photograph our products. If you're buying a niche item like this people want to see it from every angle, as well as having someone on the end of the phone to talk them through any further details of the product.
"Being responsive via your website is just another form of customer service. You might have someone with the site up in front of them and they want to be talked through some of the specifics - it assures them they're getting the value they're looking for."
And the trends being marked at our independents are a fraction of the wider shopping trends.
The Office for National Statistics' latest data shows that 28pc of total retail sales made in October were online - an increase of 2pc on the previous month.
But shopping with the likes of Amazon does relatively little for our economy. According to research by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies for every £1 spent at an independent business 63p ends up back in the local economy compared to only 5p spent at a national or international retailer.
Which is why this paper has launched its Shop Local campaign, a plea to readers to make the most of its independents this Christmas.
Not only does shopping independently benefit the economy but it is also advantageous for consumers, added Stephen Besley, owner of Beccles-based antiquarian and second hand book retailer Besleys Books.
Having closed its bricks-and-mortar premises this year, Mr Besley said that he still has plenty of capacity to share his knowledge with customers: "The difference between us and the widget you talk to on big brand websites is that we have the specialist knowledge of the products and we want to share it.
"My top advice for businesses considering launching online would be make sure you have good pictures and product descriptions. Although online will now be the sales stream we focus on we'll still do book fairs and catalogue sales which means we still have other ways of contacting customers."