Published: 06:00, 17 November 2020
Traditionally, it's turkeys that struggle for survival in the run-up to Christmas - this year it's the local producers, retailers and pubs upon which we have all come to rely on so heavily over the years.
But you won't need pointing out that 2020 has been a challenge on a scale completely unimaginable a mere 12 months ago.
While most firms felt a slight twang of anxiety over the impact of what Brexit would bring, no-one could have imagined a year where four months saw all but essential stores forced to close by order of the government.
And the second lockdown right now is hitting food and drink suppliers particularly hard - especially when, traditionally, they would start to see a sales surge as the focus shifts towards the festive season.
Unsurprisingly, the message is stark and to the point.
"Buy from your local producers, your local retailers and buy from your local hospitality businesses where they still do takeaway food or drinks," says Floortje Hoette, chief executive of local food and drink producers, Produced in Kent.
"As we approach Christmas, buy local and buy local online - the big e-commerce platforms are earning enough money. Look up that local shop and see if they have an online store - many have added that option and it works very well."
But while the 'buy local' mantra is nothing new - in fact it has been so repeated over the last few years it has become lost amid the buzz phrases of 'provenance' and 'field to plate' economics - now the issue is not just about growing the prosperity of local producers, but ensuring they can survive. How quickly things change.
Much has been made of firms having to 'pivot' during the first lockdown - in other words altering their offering or target audience in order to keep the money coming in.
And there was plenty of organisations which did just that.
Watts Farms, for example, headquartered in Aylesford, was once the purveyor or fruit and veg to swanky restaurants across the south east. The spring lockdown put paid to that. But as families desperately attempted to secure an online delivery slot from under-pressure supermarkets, it literally saved the bacon for many by switching to a home delivery service.
During the first lockdown it managed 40,000 deliveries. And while demand then dropped as restrictions eased, in the hours leading up to Boris Johnson's second lockdown announcement last month, sales soared by 400%.
"We are prepared for Christmas and have delivery slots," says director Ed Gray, adding, "we can even deliver Christmas trees."
There are other examples, but for many the switch in focus is neither so simple or successful.
"The second lockdown is having a severe impact on independent traders," explains Produced in Kent's Floortje Hoette, "and it's not just the hospitality sector which immediately springs to mind, because, of course, they had to close their doors once again.
"But its the producers and supply chain behind that hospitality sector - so the suppliers of fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, milk and beverages, they are all stuck with product and stock which they just cannot sell on to different markets, often because it's grown, reared and produced for the hospitality sector and packaged differently.
"For example, specific meat cuts, casks of beer, potatoes produced specifically for chips or milk delivered in industrial containers. So it very much affects them.
"Many of these producers have strengthened their trade with local retail and customers direct - certainly in the last lockdown - and that's very positive development. A lot of producers did direct deliveries, such as delivering vegetable boxes to people's doors and a lot have gone online to sell directly.
"But this increased trade does not, at least yet, make up for the loss of income through the hospitality sector."
The date of December 2 cannot come around fast enough for many, of course. While it is widely expected the national lockdown will be lifted, a return to the tier system may still hit many producers hard.
While there is talk Kent may emerge only to find itself facing a hyper-local lockdown - where individual districts' tier rating will be determined by infection rates - that could spell doom for many.
Not to mention quash the ambition of many producers who would normally have spent the summer and festive run-up to help fuel expansion of their plans in 2021.
Adds Floortje: "The producers selling at markets and events, or those supplying tourism sites or entertainment venues, for example, artisan products or ice cream at theatres, they are severely impacted as they have nowhere to go with their products at the moment.
"Start-ups often try the markets to build their business. They have no way to do that now. The markets are cancelled so people have nowhere to go.
"Christmas is normally the busiest time for independent traders and they're completely missing out on it.
"Even when the lockdown ends there will still be an impact on their business as they simply haven't had that run up to Christmas to benefit from."
It's a view echoed by the British Independent Retailer's Association. Its CEO, Andrew Goodacre, explained: “The second lockdown could not be at a worse time for independent retailers as we approach the crucial festive period. Christmas shopping was already starting and will now end up being carried out online.
“We lost 25% of independent retailers after the last lockdown, and without meaningful support the sector will be decimated by further lockdowns.”
But support to survive through the likes of business rate breaks and the furlough scheme is a very different proposition to making profits and building a prosperous business and employing more local people.
The last word - and message - comes from Produced in Kent: "I completely understand people are having to watch their spending this Christmas, but where you can please let's all rally together and help our local businesses. If you're going to spend, do it locally.
"Have a lovely local Christmas and buy local online."
You can see a number of local producers offering services during the lockdown at Produced in Kent's buylocalfoodanddrink.co.uk website.