INDEPENDENT businesses in Northwich are asking people to “use us or lose us” as they battle to keep their heads above water during the cost of living crisis.

As the economy struggles to recover in the post-pandemic era, soaring prices have resulted in millions of people around the country struggling to cope.

Food, gas and electricity prices are the highest they’ve been in decades with the rate of inflation now close to 10 per cent. 

The impact the crisis is having on ordinary working families is also being felt by businesses as people have less money to spend in shops and across the hospitality industry.

Those pressures are felt even more acutely by independently owned businesses as they often operate to much finer margins and don’t have the added luxury of being able to cut back on a large workforce in a bid to balance the books.

We spoke to some of the town’s small businesses and asked them about what life is like at the moment and their hopes for the future.

Married couple Angelus and Angela Ellis turned their dream into a reality when they opened their own business in April last year.

Northwich Guardian: Married couple Angelus and Angela Ellis opened Fat Dog in April last yearMarried couple Angelus and Angela Ellis opened Fat Dog in April last year

Located on Spencer Street, Fat Dog sells an amazing variety of products, many of them catering to the specific demands of their customers.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing, with Angelus reporting more than a 40 per cent drop in sales from the same period last year.

“We knew it was going to be slow at the start of the year,” he explained.

“But it got to March, and we began to wonder why things hadn’t started to pick up.

“At the end of April, I was able to compare the previous year and sales were 45 per cent down.

“It’s really disheartening because if it was something we had done or weren’t doing, we can say it was out fault and find a way to fix it.

“But the simple fact is, everybody’s got less money.

“When your food bill goes up, your energy bills, petrol - the first thing to get cut is luxuries.

“We don’t sell any necessities so that’s obviously had an impact on us.”

Northwich Guardian: Fat Dog sells a huge variety of products - many of which cater to the specific demands of their customers Fat Dog sells a huge variety of products - many of which cater to the specific demands of their customers

In a bid to halt the slide, Angelus has diversified the business by making and selling some additional unique products – such as personalised laser-engraved slates.

“Another product we used to sell were these small, wooden candle holders, but they increased in price, so we decided to just make our own instead,” he said.

“Before, it wasn’t worth us doing that because they were mass-produced in China, but they’re so expensive to ship over now.

“We also expanded things further by making these personalised slate designs, such as house numbers and drinks coasters.

“When we sell items we’ve made ourselves it also means we keep more of the profits.”

Despite throwing time, effort and ideas at the business, Angelus has had to fall back to his former trade and take on some freelance work as a web developer – just to keep things ticking over.

“It’s just one of those things, we’re just going to have to weather it,” he said.

“I’ve actually managed to pick up some web development work from some of our customers who come in here, so that’s been nice.

“So, it’s things like this that are keeping the doors open at the moment.

“We’ve even got a member of staff, but we’re not the sort of business who is going to fire her just to keep the business open.

“Half the battle is just simply people knowing that we are here.

"I'm just trying to make sure we can get through this time and remain open."