By Garry James 

Paisley and Friends is an independent shop in Kings Road in St Leonards set up and run by Claire Paisley. They sell products that are well designed and well made. This includes unique and affordable items from jewellery and homewares to prints and knitwear. 

They, like every other non-essential business, had to close their doors during the government lockdown. During this period, Paisley and Friends sold more on their website, where they had the opportunity to upload all of their existing stock. They were able to increase their online sales by around 200% and offered free delivery for local orders. 

Claire, the business owner, said that locals were so supportive of her business when she went into lockdown, taking up shopping online instead. Her customers made a conscious decision to support small independent businesses and not just rely on national chains. 

During the lockdown, the best-selling product has been clothing. Paisley and Friends offers a range of apparel from yoga and leisurewear to ethically sourced t-shirts. One of the aims for when Claire set up the shop was to provide ethical clothing. She also wanted to educate people to buy less cheap throwaway products and invest in better clothes. 

The shop reopened three months later on Thursday 18th June to a part-time schedule due to childcare restraints. They are open three days per week: Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm. 

Small business owners on Kings Road are very supportive of each others’ businesses

Since reopening, Claire has been handmaking face masks. This was in response to the government announcing that they are now making it mandatory to wear them in all shops and on public transport. The masks are £5 each, and it allows Claire to use up what would otherwise be scrap material. 

On that first weekend of opening, Claire noticed a spike in customers who were desperate to get out and support small independent businesses again. She said that other traders on Kings Road have also had a significant spike in sales.  

Claire hasn’t noticed many tourists visiting yet, although she noted that it has picked up over the past weekend. She is hopeful that as more people stay at home this summer, they will visit tourist destinations in the UK, with Hastings being one. 

One of the nice things to hear is that the small business owners on Kings Road are very supportive of each other’s businesses. They regularly speak on a WhatsApp group and supported each other when applying for the emergency government grants. 

Claire is hopeful about the future of small independent businesses. She set up the shop so people could enjoy the shopping experience as larger chains are dying. She knows that small independents cannot compete with online high street retailers, and so wants to continue her shop to show off a unique shopping experience. 

What concerns Claire is that this small spike in sales that has happened since non-essential shops have reopened will not be sustained as more people lose their jobs, as lockdown comes to an end. 

She wants to encourage all locals to shop locally and support independent businesses if they can. 

You can buy Claire’s handmade masks and support a local independent business online at www.paisleyandfriends.co.uk or in-store at 56 Kings Road in St Leonards. 


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