Tuesday, 5 May 2009

How are small businesses doing?

I have just got home this evening to discover that my 7 year old has dribbled Orange Calippo ice lolly all over my keyboard --- Sticky YUCK. Just one of the benefits of being able to work 24x7 from home!

In Luton this morning I met with a wide variety of small business and shop owners in the Bury Park area. This is not a traditional English high street but an incredibly diverse area of different cultures trading side by side. I have got used to seeing boarded up shop windows in recent months but there were none here. I met grocery shop owners, legal advisors, estate agents, clothiers and carpet sellers. All have experienced difficult months but all had gone into the downturn with little debt, hard working families sharing the workload and very loyal customers... and they are still going. Later I had the chance to chat to a very traditional village shop/post office keeper in a leafy village she said that exactly the same principles (low debt, long hours by family, keep supporting the customers) is what is keeping her business going too.

Its not all easy... one man explained that he had run his own business for 16 years before having to close 18 months ago. He has since been looking for work. His support from the local job centre has involved signing him on for a 6 week training program, ticking the "training" box and errr that's it.

The man in his early 30s behind the counter in one of the grocery shops asked me how long I thought the recession would ask. I started explaining how bad our national debt was and the need to both work our way out of this and the difficult decisions a future government would have. I was using quite simple language. He then told me he had studied economics for five years and has a degree from UCL - we ended up debating whether the Chinese Government stockpiling would have a long lasting effect on world rice prices and how he is now by-passing Euro-based wholesalers to import food directly from producer countries.

Back in Ely this evening I joined a County Council candidate who is new to politics. He describes himself as an engineer working in animal welfare. It turns out that from Ely he is working for sanctuaries as well known as the Battersea Dogs Home, and importing equipment from the US then exporting all over Europe.

Never underestimate the small businessman - or woman!

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