The rise of online independent businesses has demonstrated how people have evolved their hobbies into sources of income in a financially uncertain time.
Since Lockdown began there has been a significant increase in the number of people shopping online, with the UK seeing a 13.8% increase in internet sales as a percentage of retail sales from February 2020 to May 2020. Furthermore, footfall in physical shops fell approximately 40% in July despite lockdown restrictions being eased. As the number of online shoppers rises so has the number of independent online businesses, particularly in the creative sector.
It’s officially been 213 days since the UK’s official lockdown commenced on the 23rd March 2020. Whilst it has been a time of worry and boredom for some, others have turned this extra time into money and proved that you can put a positive spin on the extra time the pandemic has afforded us.
Alongside the aid of social media and its carefully crafted ‘business tools,’ those with little to no experience of running a business have found it possible to launch.
Nicha Porrino is a 21-year-old self-taught artist based in the UK who runs ‘Porrino Art’ and an online store that sells handmade prints, stickers and paintings.
Before lockdown she began to advertise her artwork through social media casually but when lockdown hit it took away much of her income and gave her the push she needed to start selling her art more seriously. She moved onto ‘Big Cartel’ and saw her sales “increase from 48 sales in 10 months to 87 orders in one month”.
Nicha also credited online engagement groups in the rise in her sales, stating “they 100% boosted my sales and has helped build up a customer base”.
“My overall experience of lockdown was extremely difficult, to begin with because I didn’t see anyone for 8 weeks but thanks to starting the business I started to enjoy it a lot more and it allowed me to do what I really wanted to do which was sell my artwork”Nicha Porrino, Porrino Art
Phoebe O’Sullivan is another example of a young individual who turned her hobby into an extra source of income after being made redundant as a result of the nationwide lockdown. P
Phoebe, 20 from Huddersfield launched ‘Things by Pheebs’, an independent online store based on Etsy, and closely linked to her Instagram, that sells custom embroidery pieces in hoops or tote bags and handmade jewellery out of “quirky items”.
Phoebe explained how although the furlough scheme kept her financially supported for a period of time it was not a permanent solution. “As a waitress, a large part of my wage was tips I received from customers, but obviously, this was not included in the furlough scheme and I was feeling a massive dint in the money” on top of the decrease in income she was then made redundant. Starting her business and receiving a little bit of extra money helped to make the amount closer to what she was used to.
“Without lockdown, I don’t think I ever would have started a business at all. Before lockdown hit I was working in a restaurant full time and what little free time I had was spent socialising with friends, caring for my dogs or keeping up with jobs around the house.”Phoebe O’Sullivan, Things by Pheebs
The statistics coming out of 2020 also reflect the obvious shift to online shopping and the rise of the independent online business.
The appeal of a more sustainable way to shop and the supporting of individuals rather than large corporations are further motivators. With all this considered could we be seeing the final nail in the coffin for the high street shops and the last stepping stone to the finishing line for the ‘little guys’?