Borough businesses battling to survive

Michael Blake and Jennie Law at Trimbles in Windmill Hill
Michael Blake and Jennie Law at Trimbles in Windmill Hill

Olivia Devereux-Evans talks to Enfield entrepreneurs about their struggles through the pandemic

With England having been under a second national lockdown throughout November, and many restrictions continuing into December, local businesses in Enfield continue to face uncertainty.

Essential businesses, such as those selling food, have been allowed to stay open, but non-essential shops remain closed until restrictions ease next week. And while the government has extended its furlough scheme until March 2021 in a bid to stave off mass redundancies, many business owners are still struggling to continue trading.

They include Michael Blake, who has run Trimbles Fancy Dress Shop in Windmill Hill since 1998. He told the Dispatch: “I would say we are probably 80% down on business since March. We have survived purely because of what we got from the government. Otherwise, we would have closed, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Trimbles secured a loan and was eligible for the government-backed business rates relief scheme. Michael also plans on using the flexible furlough offer until March to pay staff. During the current lockdown, Trimbles is relying on customers emailing in deliveries for dance wear and fancy dress costumes. But profits from big fancy dress occasions have declined sharply.

“At Halloween we lost about 75% of our normal business,” added Michael. “It should have been a big Saturday for us.”

Yvonne Fuller has run Shed Loads of Crafts in Crews Hill since 2015, with business partner Sandra Gardner. Speaking at the start of the second lockdown, Yvonne said they were worried about losing trade. “November is our busiest month in the whole year,” she told the Dispatch. “So we are going to be financially at a loss.”

Shed Loads of Crafts was eligible for business rates relief, some of which Yvonne and Sandra put aside. They are now trying to increase their online presence while they are unable to open the shop, using their Facebook page.

Asked how she was feeling about the future of the business, Yvonne said: “Despondent at the moment, but we will be good, we will get there. We have got customer followers, so we will be okay. The pandemic has actually shown how many people do believe in us and want us to survive.”

Mizad Khodsee, who runs Mauritian Foods Online, has a fruit and vegetable stall and supermarket at Edmonton Green Shopping Centre, which was recently taken over by a new management company, Crosstree. Mizad said the new management had been a positive and that people were still doing their essential grocery shopping there.

Crosstree has helped businesses struggling at the centre by giving them rent discounts. Mizad also received government support, including a ‘Bounce Back’ loan. Asked about the future of the business, he said: “We have to keep positive because we are all in it [together]. The show must go on. We have to have a bit of a glimmer of hope that we are just going through a hard time.”

Many businesses have adapted their offer to customers to stay afloat during the pandemic. But My Time Artisan Fare in Palmers Green, run by Brian Lewis, has changed more than most. It had been open since 2015 as a café, but like many such firms saw a decline in sales following the first lockdown. Brian told the Dispatch: “Our sales were something like 40-50% coming back, and that was when we did [government discount scheme] Eat Out To Help Out.”

Brian Lewis behind the counter at My Time in Palmers Green
Brian Lewis behind the counter at My Time in Palmers Green

My Time also received business rate relief but Brian said it wasn’t enough and that he had to decide what else could be done to help the business survive. He did some market research with Palmers Green Action Group and discovered locals wanted a deli in the area. My Time subsequently re-opened as an organic delicatessen, grocery store and café, branching out into home food deliveries and click-and-collect.

“If we had not been creative we really would have died,” said Brian. He is now hopeful for the future and added: “We are going to be able to move forward. I just want to say a big thank you to the residents and customers for supporting us.”

Contact Trimbles Fancy Dress:
Facebook /Trimblesfancydress

Contact Shed Load of Crafts:
Visit shedloadofcrafts.com

Contact Mauritian Foods Online:
Visit mauritianfoodsonline.com

Contact My Time Artisan Fare:
Facebook /mytimefare