Published: 06:00, 27 November 2020
| Updated: 17:09, 27 November 2020
Each year Black Friday takes over the retail world, with huge companies enticing customers with cut-price deals just before the Christmas rush.
But in a year where the market has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, local business owners are encouraging shoppers to look a little closer to home during the annual spending spree.
Shops across Canterbury, Whitstable, and Herne Bay have teamed up as part of the #BuyLocalBlackFriday campaign, in the hopes of reminding the public why it is now more important than ever to support independent businesses.
Due to non-essential shops having to remain closed until December 2, it has meant many local businesses have had to rely on their online presence for the first time ever.
'We're very much about our community'
Dice and Destiny, on Borough, Canterbury, has spent the last five years introducing new board and card games to its loyal customers - but the pandemic generated interest from a much wider audience looking for ways to keep entertained.
David Moore, who owns the business, said: "I think everyone knew we were going back into lockdown, so people were looking for things to do - everyone I spoke to was saying 'I'm really bored of Netflix, I'm really bored of playing the same videogame again.'
"So people were coming in and experiencing games in a different way again. We've all played Monopoly and Cluedo and things like that but it's a lot more than that now."
The business' Black Friday online promotion has focused on some of the classic family games in light of three households being allowed to mix over the Christmas period.
But the game expert is forever having to compete with the gargantuan retailers who can routinely offer his products at a drastically reduced price.
David said: "The hardest thing was when you'd have someone in the shop and they'd look at a game, getting their phone out to use your internet and going, 'it's £20 cheaper on Amazon.'
"That kind of hurt, so we've adjusted our prices quite a lot, to try and be competitive as possible.
WATCH: David Moore speaks about the difficulty of remaining competitively priced as a local business
"It's great to shop local but if something is £20 more expensive it's very hard to justify it, so we've tried to bring our prices down so yes it costs us more to be here, but if it's only going to cost you a few quid or a fiver extra on something that's a bit more expensive, that's not so bad."
Despite some of his frustration with having to compete with the larger online retailers, David was reminded of the support from the local community when a young boy visited Dice and Destiny before the second lockdown.
He said: "He looked around for about 20 minutes, all awkward and shy, and just before he went he came up to me and gave me a pound, and said: 'That's for you, because I just don't want you guys to close.'
"It's things like that that have made it all worth keeping going."
'We've missed out on a lot'
In what could be the most uncertain year ever for retail and trade, one entrepreneur found herself bringing her business to the high street for the first time.
Fallan Kelly, owner of Personalised by FK on North Street, Herne Bay, signed her lease before the pandemic had hit, and received her keys the day before the first national lockdown.
She said: "I was worried because I'd just signed my lease so there was no getting out of it, so I've had to literally ride it.
"The walk in trade was good but obviously we've missed out on a lot."
Her store offers personalised clothing, bags and countless other items, and said it is one of the few physical stores in existence to offer this kind of service.
Fallan will be discounting many items across the shop for Black Friday, which customers will be able to browse and order through her Facebook and Instagram pages.
She will also extend discount through to next week, when she will be allowed to reopen once again under the new tier system.
Fallan is unsure if trade will pick back up next week, because small independent shops like hers will be forced to compete with the larger retailers who have also been closed for the past four weeks.
She said: "Obviously the local towns are opening, but then all the bigger shops are opening at the same time - it's all depending on who's coming into town."
The entrepreneur hopes people will remember why it is important to keep thinking about independent retail businesses on Black Friday and across the incoming Christmas period.
She said: "Everyone's just trying to start up, and this year hasn't been easy, so the more local people they can help the better.
"I also think it helps to keep all the shops in town, or they're all going to start dropping - there's not many shops here to be honest, so they don't want any more going or there won't be a town."
'Online presence is absolutely huge'
Another store looking to capitalise on Black Friday this year is Toys N Trends on High Street, Whitstable.
The shop is celebrating it's 10th anniversary this week, but in order to reach the landmark birthday, owner Helen Bellenie had to quickly pivot the business online to keep things going.
As part of the #BuyLocalBlackFriday campaign, Helen hopes to remind customers that her shop is still there and ready for the busy Christmas period.
She said: "We think it's a fantastic idea, with Black Friday being quite big - online presence is absolutely huge and we do have to be a part of that.
"Obviously we need to be supported locally as well for us to carry on being a thriving high street, and the big boys do have a big online presence but we have also worked really hard over the last two lockdowns to be the same."
In order to remain competitive for customers, Helen has managed to stock a number of high-demand toys and games, which have resulted in purchases online from as far away as Scotland and Wales.
WATCH: Helen Bellenie tells us why her toy shop is involved with Black Friday for the first time this year
After an uncertain year Helen decided to join in with Black Friday and offer savings on a number of products - the first year the business has done so.
She said: "We don't normally get involved. We do have an excellent community here where we are quite highly supported, but this is a pandemic and these are different circumstances.
"It's totally different for us and everywhere on the high street."
She added: "If we can't diversify and go out there and move forward with the times, we wouldn't survive."
'It's lovely to see local support'
2020 has been a year where even the most traditional businesses have had to consider how they can reach their customers digitally.
For Jon Mills, owner of The Foundry Brew Pub and Restaurant in Canterbury, this new way of operating was a bit of a learning curve.
He said: "The online shop has been a big education for us, things have gone well such as the spirits club, with people buying from Belgium and all over, and it's lovely to see local support as well."
Alongside the gift sets and spirits club, Jon and his team have spent much of the past two lockdowns delivering beers and spirits to people in the local area.
The brewer hopes that people will consider supporting The Foundry and other local businesses not just during this Black Friday, but in future too.
He said: "If you buy a beer from us the hops have come from a local farmer, the grain is English barley so some of that comes from Kent.
"The effects on the local economy by supporting those around you are enormous.
"Whereas if you buy from a global company, then that's not staying in the local community and supporting your schools, your local shops - so buying local has a huge positive impact."
The #BuyLocalBlackFriday campaign is spearheaded by Canterbury City Council, using money from the Reopening High Streets Safely fund.
Cllr Jeanette Stockley, vice chair of the regeneration and property committee, said: "A single pound spent with a local business will have far more of an impact on our local economy than a pound spent with huge online retailers.
"Many of our businesses sell their goods and services online and have adapted to the changing world around us by offering click and collect services.
"They may not always be able to offer the same level of discount as the big players but you will be helping to keep these brilliant businesses going and keep on employing their staff.
"We all know local businesses can offer outstanding personal customer service and it would be a complete waste to lose their expertise and knowledge.
"Let’s help them survive 2020 so they can come back in 2021 stronger than ever before and by using #BuyLocalBlackFriday you will helping us all to spread the word.”