Small and independent businesses are at the heart of our city and many of these cherished establishments are facing an unprecedented crisis. In the wake of economic upheaval and shifting consumer behaviours, Cardiff’s small businesses are navigating rocky waters. The impact of the pandemic is still being felt, as is the post-Brexit economic landscape. But, despite facing significant challenges, they continue to embody resilience, determination and unwavering spirit. 

Amidst recent closures of beloved local establishments like The Conway, Kindle and The Brass Beetle, it’s evident that times are tough and businesses are struggling. Phil and Deb Lewis from Kindle, who sadly shut their doors this January, look back on the closure and the impact of the crisis that faces small, independent businesses across the UK. In an emotional post announcing their closure, they said that their decision to close was “in no way a reflection of the outstanding food produced by the kitchen team or sensational service by the front of house team, but a reflection of the current industry struggles and a worrying pattern as we see multiple business closures up and down the country.” 

Credit: @kindle_cardiff

The Conway in Pontcanna, Cardiff’s first entry into the Michelin Pub Guide, shared a similar sentiment. They posted to Facebook: “The much-publicised financial difficulties which have plagued the hospitality industry have finally become too unwieldy to manage. Despite our very best efforts to mitigate them, the challenge is now too great to enable us to continue trading.” It’s a hard pill to swallow that despite being a well-loved, successful institution in the community, a business can still be vulnerable enough to close, which certainly provokes a feeling of frustration and helplessness. But, the future of small businesses in Cardiff is not written in stone and this is in no way a time to give up. 

Amidst these challenges, we at Cardiff Life feel a deep responsibility to help create a more optimistic future for the indie businesses of Cardiff and foster hope and positivity within our community. We are committed to amplifying the voices of small businesses, showcasing their stories and championing initiatives that foster a thriving climate for our city’s economy. The resilience and ingenuity of Cardiff’s small business community shine through as they adapt to evolving circumstances and seek new and innovative solutions to help their business prosper. Together, with the support of our community, we can ensure a brighter future for these cherished establishments.

Credit: Pontcanna Market

Luckily, Cardiff is not a city that backs down from a challenge and this is evident in the response to recent closures. There are ways that we can all help our local businesses, as well as initiatives that have the power to get small businesses back on their feet. Schemes such as the St David’s Landsec Futures Community Grant Scheme act as beacons of hope. This initiative offered grants ranging from £1,000 to £3,000 to local voluntary groups and not-for-profit organisations, aiming to bolster those already making a significant impact in the community. The Landsec Futures project aims to generate £200 million worth of social value by 2030 and assist at least 30,000 individuals from underrepresented socio-economic backgrounds in securing long-term employment. 

Accessible to the small business community and as part of their public value mission, Cardiff Business School provides targeted support and development opportunities through their teaching, research and engagement activities. They have a track record of supporting industry bodies and policymakers in understanding small business challenges. Through collaborative efforts, this helps develop policies and support mechanisms to enhance small business growth and promote an enterprise culture.

Credit: Cardiff University

However, these initiatives can only do so much: it’s the consumer that has to act and do all they can to help these businesses. Cardiff is a city that is proud to host an eclectic mix of small, independent businesses and it’s these family-run restaurants and tucked-away boutiques that contribute to the rich Cardiff culture. As consumers, we hold the power to boost the small business community and invest in some real gems that would otherwise be sadly lost.

By choosing to dine at Cardiff’s independent restaurants, shop local in its independent stores and markets, and endorse small businesses, consumers not only benefit from an incredible quality of products and services but also support the resilience of the city’s small business community. Every purchase serves as a vote of confidence, affirming our need for the diversity, creativity and quality of local businesses that define Cardiff. 

Credit: City of Arcades

So next time that you’re eating out in Cardiff, instead of choosing a chain restaurant, why not venture out and try one of the plethora of independent restaurants and cafes that are found all over the city? Chances are that you’ll have an experience that is more memorable and tailored to you, as well as experiencing the best of locally sourced ingredients. Cardiff’s multiculturalism is another massively beneficial quality to its foodie scene, as there’s no shortage of cuisines from around the world, on your doorstep. Don’t forget about the incredible independent businesses that bring fresh produce to the city too. Nestled in the heart of the city centre, Cardiff’s Victorian indoor market hosts a variety of vendors, including butchers, bakers, fishmongers and greengrocers.

Credit: Hotels.com

Beyond food and drink, independent retail businesses play a crucial role too. Offering unique, high-quality, locally-made products, they provide an appealing option, particularly for gift-giving. Just as is true with the independent hospitality scene, the huge range of independent shops in Cardiff allows us to discover something new in every store that we visit. Have a browse in your local neighbourhood shop and you might just find your new favourite pair of earrings or indoor plant.

But, showing solidarity with independent businesses goes beyond consumption. Consumers and customers can actively participate in the promotion of local shops, pubs, restaurants and businesses and spread the word, forging a supportive community and providing vital support for these local businesses. By raising awareness about the challenges faced by independent entrepreneurs and championing their cause, we play a vital role in shaping the future of our city’s business landscape. 

In the face of adversity, the message is clear: use them or lose them. Cardiff’s small independent businesses are vital and as consumers, we hold the key to maintaining the vibrant community that’s at the heart of our city. Let’s embrace the opportunity to utilise these businesses and celebrate remarkable local talent to ensure that these independent shops, restaurants, bars and cafes (and the list goes on!) remain a part of Cardiff that generations can enjoy for years to come.

Author WCS

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