If this year has proved anything, it’s that it’s more important than ever to shop local and support our independent stores.
Lucy and Paul Hull founded For the Love of the North as a website in February 2017, swiftly followed by the opening of a bricks-and-mortar shop in Whitley Bay town centre later that same year. Having moved into a unit in the redeveloped Spanish City, they celebrated three years in business this summer.
‘Everyone has had their own lockdown experience,’ says Lucy. ‘We both made the decision to close on the Friday before the national lockdown was announced. It was absolutely heartbreaking and we cried lots, but we knew it was the right thing to do.’
‘One of our wonderful customers was so concerned about us having to close that they suggested we created a poster based on the “Keep Calm & Carry On” vein used during the Second World War, but with a Whitley Bay twist,’ Lucy explains. ‘We got in touch with one of our fabulous artists, Lisa Kirkbride, and together we came up with the “Love Will Get Us Through” motif and included the rainbow – that symbol of hope – and two icons of the Whitley Bay coast, the Spanish City and St Mary’s Lighthouse.’ Looking to help the NHS through the unprecedented period, they also decided to donate 25 percent of the proceeds from each sale to the Northumbria NHS Bright Charity (they’ve now raised more than £7,000).
They admit that they hadn’t previously tapped into its fullpotential, but as their website took off, things went crazy for Lucy and Paul over lockdown. ‘Looking back, we were so glad, as it really gave us focus each day, with wrapping and packing orders from the Spanish City shop,’ Lucy recalls. ‘It was a much-needed distraction from the never ending grim news all over social media, and not being able to see our loved ones in the same way.’
Despite being closed, Lucy says they had never felt so close to their customers. ‘Lockdown 100 percent cemented what we already knew: that the North East has the most warm-hearted and generous-of-spirit community you could ever ask for,’ she says. Their rainbow prints in particular were a great way of reaching out to new customers. ‘To see the prints proudly displayed in people’s windows was so emotional, and it really showed that community spirit.’
When it came to reopening, there was no way of telling what kind of world would greet them, but the support they’ve received has been ‘truly amazing’. ‘People saw what we were doing during lockdown, and they wanted us to survive,’ Lucy continues. ‘It’s great for the artists we work with too, as so much of their other work has just vanished, so we are able to order from them and commission exclusive FTLOTN products using their designs.’
Lucy and Paul have seen first-hand the impact people’s changing lifestyles have had on their shopping habits. ‘People are very much shopping more locally. With guidance that advises only to use public transport if absolutely necessary, and so many people now working from home, shopping habits are changing,’ Lucy says. ‘The events of 2020 have been a massivegame-changer and people are realising the benefit of what is on their doorstep. Independent traders benefit the local economy, they are now such a big memployer and they allow people to fulfil their dreams and showcase the things they love with such a passion.’ For Lucy and Paul, that passion is for the North East, and its talented artists and creatives ‘Without the independents, our high street would be a very dull place indeed, and during all this and after we all need a bit of colour.’
For now, they’re working hard to be prepared for whatever might come next. ‘We’ve had Christmas cards in the shop since the end of August as people were asking for them,’ says Lucy. ‘It could be that Christmas 2020 is the year that the Christmas card and its true meaning really comes back to the fore.’
For the Love of the North
Spanish City, Whitley Bay
What other independents should we check out near you?
Park View in Whitley Bay has a fantastic array of independents, from Pure Knead who are selling their fabulous homemade Christmas cakes, to Cornflower Blue – a wonderful florist, perfect for bringing a ray of sunshine and love to any day. Nicholson’s Butchers’ cooked ham is the best thing ever.
Yorkshire puddings with Christmas dinner – yes or no?
Best place for a Boxing Day walk?
Well for ourselves it has to be on our doorstep, so a walk along Whitley Bay beach then home for a hot chocolate with a dash of brandy.