For some, the COVID-19 pandemic was a life changing experience. When businesses had to cease trading and schools shut their doors, the world hadn’t seen interruption of this scale since World War 2. In this blog series, we’re sitting down with some of those people to discuss their Pandemic Stories. For the fourth entry in the series we caught up with Phil from Trendy Steps in Pudsey. Trendy Steps is a well respected trader and purveyor of fantastic kid’s shoes here in the town. Read on to find out more about how the pandemic affected them. It’s important to note that this article was put together prior to the Plan B restrictions introduced on the 8th December.
My name is Phil, I’m the owner and founder of Trendy Steps here in Pudsey. I work and live in Pudsey, I’m married to a local Pudsey lass and together we have one son who attends Sixth Form at Pudsey Grammar School (Grangefield). I’m originally from the Manchester area but lived in and around Pudsey since 1996.
In the winter of 2012 we had the idea of opening Trendy Steps and finally opened our shop on Lidget Hill in March 2013. The opening of the shop took a lot of time, dedication and significant investment to allow us to become established, although the business is in good health the past 12 months have been our most difficult throughout the COVID pandemic.
I’d heard whispers in early 2020 that a flu like pandemic was emerging, but I never really took much notice until reports in late January/February of people becoming seriously ill. Concern grew even further when those reports turned in to reports about deaths, there is no way by this point you could even miss those reports.
Prior to the statement people started talking about restrictions, although at the time they just seemed impossible and more like rumours. As it got closer to the announcement it became much more real, and we started talking about what affect this would have on us on a daily basis.
Watching the statement live was quite surreal, being asked to stay at home and not leave other than for limited exercise is unheard of in this country. Although it was shocking, it was understandable with the circumstances.
With the introduction of restrictions, we had no choice but to close our business. As any business owner will know, this is incredibly frustrating and disappointing however when lives are at risk I believe we all had to play our part and follow the rules to the best of our abilities. At this point however, it wasn’t totally clear would what happen next and how soon things would recover.We essentially switched from being a community centre to a food bank, over night.
Having to close the business was massive, and the impact on everything was massive. Our business is a very personal one, we measure and fit shoes for children so with social distancing and the other restrictions it simply wasn’t possible to operate as we do.
Of course this opens up other avenues, and raises other questions. We quickly realised we could still offer online sales, which helped us initially. Of course after that point support started to become available through the Government and Council which helped us pay our rent and cover over overheads which allowed us to continue trading.
We also had to adapt to this massive change in the world, so we began to offer online measurements for customers and provide local deliveries for online orders.
After witnessing so many small businesses struggling, and in some cases closing I’m really proud that we managed to adapt to the changes and continue trading with our continued local support. With that support we’re hoping to continue to grow and get back to a similar level we were at in 2019, we do appreciate however that this will be difficult as shopping habits have changed. We are quite lucky in some regards as buying childrens footwear online is difficult and their foot sizes need to be checked regularly to ensure the right footwear, so we hope to continue to see people visiting us for the vital service we offer.
As with everybody, we of course have frustrations. Although we are now beginning to get back to something like pre-pandemic conditions, I understand this is something we are going to have to learn to live with and manage with vaccinations and boosters.
I think my biggest frustration is in rising costs, with the pandemic and brexit we have the perfect storm in supply and cost, to top this off rising food and energy costs means it’s a really bad time for a lot of people.
On a personal level, I’m happy to be reasonably healthy and I still have a positive outlook on the future.
We’re tremendous supporters of Phil and the business he runs in Pudsey. They’re a much valued contributor to the local economy and offer a fantastic, personal service for parents around the area. We urge you to go check out his business, we’re sure you won’t leave with empty hands.
You can find out more about Trendy Steps over on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Trendy-Steps-559399924091205/ or via their online website https://www.trendy-steps.co.uk/