As part of our Stay Safe, Support Local, Love East Lothian campaign, we will be talking to a range of East Lothian businesses who have had to adapt to keep trading during the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s more important now, than ever before, to support our local businesses.
Here we talk to Sharon Brown who set up Blueberry Gifts – an independent gift & card shop at 59 High Street, Musselburgh – five years ago.
Q: What effect did the Coronavirus pandemic have on your business?
A: My shop was shut was shut from 23rd March till 29th June as per the Government guidelines
Q: What did you do to adapt to these challenges?
A: Before lockdown Blueberry Gifts was a bricks & mortar shop only and I had prided myself on this. The COVID-19 crisis forced me to join the online shopping market as it was the only way to trade. This meant I had to develop an online shop, which was quite a challenge for someone who isn’t the most technical. Luckily I had some help from a friend which got me through and my online shop built. I was also offering free local door step deliveries. This was very popular as it meant customers could still send a nice card/gift for those special occasions. I was also able to write cards and send things directly if that helped my customers. The feedback from this service has been really heart-warming and I have loved helping people out during this challenging time.
Q: What does the immediate future look like for your business? Will some of the changes be permanent? Are you thinking of further ways to adapt?
A: Opening back up has been great and hearing all the positive feedback and how much people have missed Blueberry has been nice to hear. As for the future, it’s very uncertain. My main worry is that social distancing will continue long term. As a gift shop I make the majority of my annual profit in the four weeks leading up to Christmas. If I cannot get the footfall through the shop this will have a massive knock on effect. January & February are months when we don’t make any money at all so if the money doesn’t come in at Christmas to support us through the bleak months it will be a worry.
We are planning to keep running our online shop and local deliveries and hopefully that will supplement the shop sales. I am also looking at different ways of running the shop during December. Personal evening shopping slots might be a way forward. And I am still thinking of other ways to adapt so Blueberry is here for a long time to come.
Q: Have you had any support from East Lothian Council that you’d like to highlight?
The council handled the distribution of the grant money really quickly which was a great help. On average they were paying out support grants in five days which, considering the volume of applications, was amazing.