22 Apr 2020

Bira members share inspiring stories of lockdown life

From making scrubs for NHS staff to providing bags of books for disadvantaged children, Bira members have been helping communities across the UK cope during the coronavirus outbreak.

Bira asked members to share their experiences amidst the countrywide lockdown - and the stories reveal an uplifting sense of community spirit and creativity in a crisis.

Sarah Simonds of Artichoke Collection, a womenswear shop in Swaffam, Dorset, told us she is taking part in a local collective to make scrubs for the NHS. Other retailers are also offering free deliveries to frontline staff and donations to local hospitals.

Portmadog-based retailer Sian Cowper from Browsers Bookshop said she'd donated more than 100 bags of books and art materials to help disadvantaged children through lockdown.

And Heidi Early from Earlybird Designs - a family-run greetings card retailer and designer in London - designed a mini card featuring a rainbow and delivered it 72 neighbouring houses with a free envelope and stamp. The idea was to encourage people to send it on to a loved one they weren't able to see right now.

Heidi said: "The response has been overwhelming... people have been keen to tell us who they are sending their cards to from the local hospital to a friend in Belgium, grandparents and friends across the country. It has connected us with so many people - it has been wonderful."

Rachel Riley, of Rachel Riley, London, told us she is offering big discounts to NHS staff, as well as sending sweet pea seeds to children, along with instructions of how to grow them inside, and other craft activities to keep little minds busy.

Elsewhere, retailers told us about local initiatives they're involved in and other acts of kindness in the community including collectives of free deliveries to vulnerable residents, and even a free fish supper for workers at the Co-op on the Isles of Scilly - the only supermarket on the island.

Jonathan Jaffa of York Supplies, Birmingham, said that a local restaurant was supplying free meals to NHS workers and other key staff.

Andrew Goodacre, Bira's CEO, said: "The strengths of the independent retailers have always been their ability to adjust the business model quickly and meet the needs of their customers.

"What we see here are just a few of the many examples that perfectly show the role the indie retailer plays in the community.

"I am not surprised to see such actions and I am very proud of the role our members are playing in helping people readjust to the lockdown."

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