THE owner of Country Harvest in Ingleton - which is fully reopening today - has warned if people choose not to use their local, particularly independent shops this winter, they could lose them forever.

Mike Clark, who employs more than 70 people at his food, gifts and coffee shop business on the A65, says how shoppers decide to spend their money in the next weeks will not only have an enormous impact on the local economy but will also determine so many people’s livelihoods.

“I know myself how scary it is, going into shops and coffee shops, we’ve all got out of the habit,” he said.

“I was in Skipton a while ago and didn’t go into any of my favourite places and it was at that point I realised that if I, someone who has spent their life in retail, feels this way so will so many others. I went back the very next day and made myself go into my favourite cafe and independent shops and you know what? It was absolutely fine. But if we don’t visit our favourite places and support them then I know one thing for sure, they won’t survive the winter and will probably never re-open again.”

Country Harvest kept its food and gift hall open during the autumn lockdown, but had to close its coffee shop and Christmas cabin in accordance with government coronavirus restrictions. The business also launched an online shop to sell food, gifts and Christmas decorations.

Mr Clark said: “We know so many of our customers rely on us for their meat, bread, and other fresh foods so we have been running a local delivery service since the early Spring. When the second lockdown was looming in the run-up to Christmas we realised our customers needed us to change, so we launched online shopping too which has proved very successful.”

The business re-opens its Christmas Cabin and coffee shop today (Wednesday) following the lifting of the second national coronavirus lockdown and the placing of the area into Tier 2.

“Like so many businesses the next few weeks in the run-up to Christmas are absolutely vital. This isn’t just about my family business, it’s about all those hundreds of firms across the area which have been hit so badly in 2020 and need their loyal customers’ support. Never has ‘Shop Local’ been a more vital message to get across,” he said.