LETTER: Small Business Saturday could help our shopkeepers

I read with great interest the article written by Mr Brian Hobbs in the Express, Friday, March 29th. Mr Hobbs is President of Burnley and District Chamber of Trade, a body which I worked with when I held the appropriate portfolio at Burnley Council.

He outlines a number of problems which we faced then and refers to the fact a number of smaller businesses are still not web present, that many have not adopted social networking, they do not avail themselves of other modern media and, as he put it, “too many still think they have a divine right to customers as soon as they open their doors.” Brian will know more about this than me but I have heard of a successful method of attracting customers to small independent businesses which he and his members might like to try in Burnley. I mentioned it at the council meeting on Thursday, April 4th, asking my successor to see if there is any “mileage” in the idea.

The idea is known as Small Business Saturday (SBS) and is very successful in the United States. Last year SBS calculated to have contributed $5.3bn to small businesses across America and, to promote the idea, President Obama visited a small American bookshop on the day, Saturday, November 24th 2012. I notice Labour MP Chuka Umunna has visited the US to witness SBS for himself. It seems to me he might be onto something here and this idea ought to be followed up in Burnley. My grandfather, father and myself (as a student) have all worked in shops and small businesses in Burnley’s shopping centre. My grandfather, Robert Frost, had his own small dry cleaning and hat business with a shop in Bridge Street and others in town.

Walter Frost, my father, was first employed when he left school at Richard Webster’s department store, also in Bridge Street and worked at other branches of the business, particularly their shops in St James’s Street and Gannow.

For my part, and when still at school,I worked at Lupton’s bookshops in Burnley and Nelson but must be one of the few people alive today who have worked in all three Burnley market halls which have existed in my lifetime. The loss of Burnley’s distinctive shops is a source of considerable pain to many, me included, but perhaps the inexorable decline of the small independent business can be prevented if we consider initiatives like the one I outline.

Coun. Roger Frost, Cross Street, Briercliffe, Burnley