‘Small Businesses Saturday’ in Swanley

Michael took the opportunity to celebrate local businesses over the weekend in aid of Small Business Saturday – a campaign to raise awareness of small businesses and their importance to the economy.

He visited a number of businesses in Swanley and Westerham, ranging from hairdressers to retailers.  Feedback from those he met highlighted the innovation and creativity small businesses require in order to thrive.

Michael started the day outside Michael inspecting the ETMS lorry with owner, MartinSwanley Town Council, where he met the owner of Exhibition Traffic Management Services, Martin.  The company hires and trains local young people and helps the council with voluntary projects such as litter-picking.

The local MP then walked through Swanley Shopping Centre, where he visited Rural Age Concern Darent Valley, an independent charity, and RAW Hair, a hairdressers.  It was the tale of two businesses with plenty of customers but one struggling with high rent.

Walking down the High Street, Michael was struck by the number of empty lots where businesses have left and moved up into the Shopping Centre. The owner of Towes Convenience Store, Darren, said business was slower due to the traffic and restricted parking in the area.  He hopes his Hermes parcel collection system will help bring in more customers, and his array of Eastern European foods and drinks will keep them coming back.

Lastly, the local MP visited K2 Flooring – a company Sir Michael was pleased to discover has existed since the 1960s under the same family ownership.

Later in the day, the MP visited businesses in Westerham during Late Night Shopping and watched the turning on of the Christmas lights.

Michael said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy.  We could all learn from small businesses: they work hard and invest their own money to employ other people.  As we approach Christmas, I encourage everyone to think ‘small’ and support our great local businesses.”

Small Business Saturday in Westerham

Westerham Small Business Day with Cllr Fiona Ogden and Jane Hunter from the Westerham Town Partnership
Westerham Small Business Day with Cllr Helen Ogden and Jane Hunter from the Westerham Town Partnership

Michael visited several small businesses around the town to hear first-hand about how they are doing at present.  Feedback from those he met highlighted three common concerns: business rates, parking restrictions and broadband speeds.

Michael, together with Jane Hunter of the Westerham Town Partnership and Cllr Helen Ogden, Parish Council started the morning at Westerham Parish Church where they met members of the National Youth Ballet, run by local resident Jill Fone, who were rehearsing The Nativity for a performance later that day amid a Festival of Christmas Trees (in aid of St Mary’s Heritage Trust).  He then went on to meet Jan of Annie’s Attic who was holding a Christmas craft workshop in Westerham Hall in aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

By now the group had grown to include Cllr Roderick Hogarth (Chairman of Economic & Community Development Advisory Committee) and Cllr Kevin Maskell from Sevenoaks District Council and together they all visited The Light Brigade (Lighting) and the Beauty Spot in Horton’s Way.  Afterwards they crossed London Road to meet the new owner of The White House Gallery (Picture Framing) and then moved up the hill to call on Nigel, the owner of MooreEnergy Fitness Club.  From there they walked to the High Street and visited Ashton Taylor Smith (Antiques) and then crossed the road to Flawless Jewellery who design and make their own individual pieces and provide expert advice for remodelling.

The Courtyard
The Courtyard

The last two calls of the day were to LA Larratt (Butcher) and then a very welcome cup of coffee at The Courtyard, (‘much more than a coffee shop’) which also provides outside catering.

Thank you to Jane and Helen for organising such a brilliant tour.

Many more pictures from this visit to Westerham can be found in the gallery.