Despite lockdown conditions, some of Skipton’s businesses were able to thrive through the pandemic. Others had to completely change their business model to survive.
by Liz Smailes, Marketing & Communications Officer, Skipton BID
Food and lifestyle photographer Jo Denison in her Skipton studio
When we face a crisis we don’t have time to explore all options in-depth. We also don’t need to reinvent the wheel; just put a new tire on it or sometimes all it needs is more air. In the process of choosing which metaphorical tire or how much air, the core values on which a company was founded become the guide towards clear decisions. Keeping the company vision and the values at the forefront, adapt them to the current situation and know that as long as you’re living them, you will be okay.
Jo Denison did exactly that in March this year. A professional food and lifestyle photographer who moved to Skipton in 2019, with a string of national supermarkets and local independent retailers in her regular client portfolio, as well as travel, charity and heritage clients, nobody could accuse Jo of putting all her eggs in one basket. Yet when Covid-19 hit the UK, her phone and emails stopped too, just like most businesses. Instead of hiding behind her closed studio doors and under dark lights, Jo took her camera and her skills on to the streets to capture the success stories emerging during lockdown.
Skipton Lockdown Stories by Jo Denison
I started this project in week six of lockdown after being inspired by Skipton’s local food producers and independent shops, their entrepreneurial skill and network of cooperation, working throughout the lockdown to support the town’s people in a crisis and to survive themselves.
Over the last few weeks and months our food shopping habits have changed pretty much overnight. Faced with long queues, empty shelves and the risk of crowds in the supermarket, we have turned to use delivery services, but many have also chosen to visit the local independent shops more frequently than before.
Not only do we rely more on local producers and suppliers, but the trip out to the green grocer, or the 6ft apart door-step chat with the delivery driver has become an important social interaction, a link to the outside world, a bit of normality in a strange time.
Most food businesses are severely affected by the lockdown, some had to completely reinvent themselves, forging new alliances to secure supply, open themselves up to new markets, digital platforms and customer bases, all while ensuring their own safety and the safety of their customers and staff. Of course, the dominance of the giant online retailers is a threat to small independents, but there are also many opportunities in this situation and hopefully the renewed popularity of the independents is here to stay in the long term.
I’m a commercial photographer by trade, specialising in food and lifestyle photography, so I have a professional interest in food culture. I also love good food, local produce, artisan manufacturing methods and I care about the environmental impact of food consumption.
Being an independent freelance entrepreneur in my own business, which I choose to base in Skipton rather than one of the metropolitan areas, I feel a connection with the other small traders in town. And, not least, my business has itself been hit by the crisis and I too am faced with having to reinvent myself to some degree.
In the last few weeks I have met some of the independent food suppliers of Skipton. The people photographed are based on my personal involvement and often one encounter led me to another, there is no particular order and I am sure I have missed out many.
To view the full collection of Jo’s Lockdown Stories project please visit her instagram @JoDenison. Her regular work can be found on her website https://www.jodenison.co.uk/about/
As nonessential shops are set to reopen on Monday June 15th, we commend all of Skipton’s business owners who have made changes to their operations and retail spaces, ensuring it is a safe working environment and a pleasurable shopping experience. Skipton BID wishes each and every one of you all the very best for the future. Our town simply would not be the friendly and attractive place it is without you all.
To our readers, if you have discovered or supported an independent retailer or restaurant during the lockdown, let us know about your experiences in the comments below.