Shop Local: Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds vintage shop reports 60% drop in takings as footfall plummets
- Credit: Polly Hancock
For our Shop Local campaign this week, we hear from Adele Salem, owner of vintage shop Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds. We are calling on our readers to back independent businesses like hers, who are in a worse trading position than before the pandemic.
Adele Salem’s business is down by 60 per cent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourist haven Camden Passage - where she has run her vintage shop Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds in Pierrepont Arcade for 16 years – has been dramatically hit, and she estimates footfall has reduced by a half.
But she’s philosophical about the financial blow.
“You’ll find I’m a very unusual person, and I don’t look at things in pounds, shillings and pence,” the former actress told the Gazette.
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“I’m not there so much to run the business as to provide a space to do tarot readings and spiritual counselling.
“I don’t assess things in terms of money but rather where are we going in terms of society and what values are we encouraging, and what this virus can teach us about where we have gone wrong.”
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She believes the virus is a pattern interrupt which should make us reevaluate where we are headed.
“Our lives were based on rampant consumerism and the production of far too much plastic we can’t get rid of,” she said.
“There has got to be huge changes in terms of the environment, and this is one of the accidental by-products of the virus.
“Planes aren’t being flown and we aren’t destroying the environment at such a seemingly exponential rate that we were doing.
“Nothing was going to make us stop except something big that would disrupt our economic life.
“It has to be a balance of course, because we don’t want to be too poor to eat and you have to get the basics in.”
When she set the business up, she was mindful of the environment, and didn’t want to do something that “contributed to creating more stuff”.
“What I really do is recycling, and when people are clearing houses I’ll pick up items and jewellery that can be recycled and vintage clothes,” she said.
“I think there has been a sea change in people’s attitudes and a lot of the younger people who buy from me are really mindful of their consumption and they want to change.
“They’ll buy an old winter coat and it might not be the perfect fit but they understand now the difference in fabrics between those in the 70s and now. They get that the clothes were so much better made, because they weren’t mass produced.
“I’ve had young people say they buy things online and it’s shoddily made. For the first however many years, we were saying things to them about it but now they are telling me.”
When the lockdown came into force, Adele posted some of her wares on Instagram, but didn’t get too much response. She has also started teaching Tarot on Zoom.
If it gets to the point that she can’t afford to pay the rent, she will have to shut up shop – but she hopes it won’t get that bad.
She is grateful to the government’s grant, made available to small businesses, which has enabled her to keep her head above water.
Since reopening after lockdown, takings were down 60pc in July and August.
It started picking up again last month, but she is unsure what will happen with the new Tier Three restrictions imposed on London, which prevent households from mixing.
She hopes if there is another lockdown it will happen in November and she will take some money at Christmas, “to get through the lacklustre months” in February and March.
“I think the most important thing is to ensure everybody’s wellbeing, particularly the older members of our society and those who are more vulnerable, and that’s the priority, end of story. Everything else comes behind that, as a caring society,” she said.
“I think locals will support us. I think people are really picking up on this idea of supporting local businesses. I have people who come back year after year, and I know they do that because they want to support us.
“London has lost workers who used to travel in to the centre, and businesses that serve those workers have been affected. That will have a peripheral effect on our businesses.
“But there are still nine million people living in London who will get bored and want to come out to somewhere different.
“I just want to thank people for their support and their continuing to come back to the market and shops, because without them we wouldn’t have kept going, and to thank them for shopping local, and caring about us, because they do.”
Highlight a local business as part of the Gazette’s Shop Local campaign by getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.