There’s no getting around it – times are tough for many people at the moment.

Inflation is still officially running at around 10%, although judging by the cost of food as an example, the real figure looks like it’s a lot higher than that.

Interest rates are hitting homeowners in a big way, with mortgage repayments really starting to rack up. And hefty energy bills are not helping one jot.

As consumers, we are all trying our best to negotiate a way through the economic situation in which we find ourselves. And caught up in the middle of all this are small businesses.

According to official Government figures, at the start of 2022, there were 5.5 million small businesses in Britain – these are firms employing anywhere between 1 and 49 staff. This equates to 99.3% of the business population, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. Out of this colossal figure, 95.5% of these are termed micro businesses, employing between one and nine people. Not all one-man bands, but typically well managed enterprises run on a tight ship.

Compared to the start of 2021, however, by 2022 the number of SMEs had shrunk by 1.5% – that’s equivalent to 82,000 businesses. Much of this has been due to the impact of Brexit and the pandemic. But given that we are facing the toughest economic conditions for more than a decade, who knows how many small companies are going to bite the dust?

To keep them all going, they need your support. It’s all very well for the bigger corporates, like the major supermarket chains or brand name coffee shops, who have got plenty of fat on the bone, many of whom are making mega profits.

They make loads of money because we, as consumers, are so attuned to doing the weekly shop at Tesco or Sainsbury and buying endless amounts of flat white from Starbucks or Costa. But the next time you “pop out to the shops” or have the urge for an Americano, why not make a detour to your village shop or independently owned local café – run by guys who are looking to provide a living for their families. You might spend a little more on the goods they sell but, by the time you’ve priced in the extra cost of driving to the supermarket or paying to park in a multi storey car park, it all evens out. And these local outlets need your custom – there’s no back stop for them.

Our local communities depend upon small retailers or tradesmen. If we don’t support them and they go out of business, it’s one more victory for the big boys.

So, here’s my heartfelt plea: make a concerted effort to buy local and support local. You’ll be appreciated for doing so – and nine times out of ten, you’ll get better service into the bargain.

They say that money makes the world go round – and, as much as we might rail against that idea – it is true. We all depend upon each other. So, even if you are feeling the pinch at the moment, do whatever you can to back your local providers – whatever service they may be offering.

From personal experience, having been a small business owner selling water softeners throughout this last decade, the majority of people I deal with appreciate a local service. One that is prompt and can be relied upon, where there is always someone at the end of a phone and you don’t have to wait in a queue for an hour, until a human being finally makes themselves available to speak to you. That is not what we consider to be good customer service.

But it needn’t be that way. Wherever we can, let’s ensure local businesses stay vibrant and successful. Get behind your local butcher, baker or candlestick maker and make the world a better place.

Scott Jenkins Water Softeners are one of the leading water softener companies in the south of England – with particular focus on West and East Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey. For further enquiries about water softener products, installation and maintenance, contact SJ Water Softeners on 01243 607494 or email:

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