Small independent traders call for support when lockdown lifts

Small businesses like this Whitechapel bakery struggling during Lockdown

Small businesses like this Whitechapel bakery, Rinkoff, struggling during Lockdown - Credit: Jack Orton

Independent traders in the East End have thrown their backing behind a new campaign as lockdown eases next week. 

They have signed up to a new smartphone app’s local business finder that is supporting “ethical sustainable” traders when the coronavirus lockdown loosens on April 12. 

Adapting... how East End traders struggle to get their trade back

Adapting... how East End traders struggle to get their trade back - Credit: Jack Orton

The #LocalAfterLockdown campaign on the CoGo app aims to capture a "spirit of defiance" bringing together diverse small businesses. 

Jack Orton

It's a piece of cake... How Rinkoff's bakery is fighting to get back its lost customers - Credit: Jack Orton

The mayor of Tower Hamlets acknowledged at the height of the pandemic crisis that small businesses were “the backbone of the East End’s economy”. 

But many faced severe hardship - bakery Rinkoffs faced a 90 per cent fall in wholesale orders at its bakeries at Vallence Road in Whitechapel and at Jubilee Street in Stepney. 

Co-owner Debs Rinkoff said jethe pandemic almost put her family out of business. 

She was at her wits' end trying to fathom how to keep going with the family business that had been in Whitechapel since 1911.

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“The first lockdown was traumatic, very stressful when it happened," Debs said. "Our uncle was here crying and it was horrible to see. 

“I went home that night and was crying. We just didn't know what to do.” 

All muffed up... the Pellicci family adapt, ready to get back their lost trade

All muffed up... the Pellicci family adapt, ready to get back their lost trade - Credit: Jack Orton

Photographer Jack Orton has captured images of small traders like Pellicci’s cafe in Bethnal Green Road, which suddenly lost its passing trade when the pandemic started.  

Pellicci’s, like Rinkoffs, has been an established family business in the East End for more than 100 years. Both started up before the First World War. 

It is steeped in folk lore as the meeting place of the notorious Krays when they ruled the underworld from their mum Violet’s house in Vallance Road in the 1950s and 60s. The cafe was also featured in the film Legend with Tom Hardy and Emily Browning in 2015 about the gangster twins’ criminal empire. 

Sign of the times... shop local and you need to make sure it's safe

Sign of the times... shop local and you need to make sure it's safe - Credit: Jack Orton

Businesses featured in the post-lockdown campaign’s CoGo app also include a hair salon for artists, plastic-free stores, an ethical clothing brand and arts and crafts stores. 

Yasar Torunoglu, the publicist for CoGo, said: “This is to encourage shoppers to use independents when lockdown loosens on April 12. App users only see independent businesses, giving Pellicci’s and Rinkoffs specific exposure, for example.  
“We've already seen how hard the bigger high street shops have been hit, so this is a way to raise awareness on how much harder smaller family-run business have been affected.” 

The app now has 20,000 accredited small businesses up and down the country aimed at consumers who want to shop at their local traders that match their ethical values. 

CoGo’s managing director Emma Kisby said: “These businesses have given everything to come out on April 12. We’re promoting users switching to independent retail stores as an essential way to contribute towards the local economy and retain the charm of the high street.” 

All businesses listed have been accredited for sustainable practices by third-party organisations like the Living Wage Foundation, Carbon Trust and the Sustainable Restaurant Association.  

The app also started a “carbon footprint tracker” last year, developed with climate expert Prof Mike Berners-Lee at Lancaster University. The tracker, which is used by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) calculates the consumer’s real-time climate impact based on how and where they go shopping.