East Preston party shop sees business boom during lockdown
Just Because in East Preston’s Sea Road had been carving out a decent niche selling balloons, banners, cards – products to brighten up any occasion – for three years.
But on March 23 last year, it looked like the party was over.
Richard Daniels and Blake Britton, who both live in Worthing could not see how they would survive with their doors forced to close.
“We thought lockdown would be the end of our business,” said Blake, 44.
“We were contacting the landlord asking ‘what can we do?’. We were really worried.”
But the pandemic has had the reverse effect. With big hitters like Clinton’s and Card Factory forced to close their stores, customers began looking online instead of sticking to what they know.
The balloon side of their business in particular has exploded, with people throwing elaborate parties at home to counteract the drudgery of lockdown.
People have also been unable to hire out function rooms or venues, leaving them with extra cash lying around for an extravagant balloon arch or a buffet fit for a king.
Inundated with orders, the pair have had to split their time with one handling messages while the other focuses on orders.
“Lockdown has really benefitted us in a lot of ways, and we know we are the exception to the rule and we’ve been very, very fortunate,” said Richard, 49.
Richard and Blake, who are partners in life as well as business, took over the old Treats ’n’ Treasures shop in 2017.
It was their first business venture – Richard was the postmaster at Goring Post Office and Blake was, and still is, a professional photographer with some retail experience.
Together they expanded the food side of the business, going from some local honeys and marmalades to a wall stacked with a wide range of party foods.
The pair said they have also been fortunate in that they have never had much corporate business, although they would ‘love to have it’.
That meant they did not lose a large chunk of their trade when gatherings were banned – because it did not exist in the first place.
As self-employed people with an established business they were also able to access Government support quickly, as opposed to newer businesses without enough accounting history.
Until the budget announcement, traders could not include 2019/20 accounts when claiming support.
Online powerhouses like Amazon and eBay still threaten to burst their bubble – or balloon.
Blake said people buying through the big sites were often left disappointed, as their inflatable giraffe is perhaps not as big as advertised or their helium balloon is too heavy to float.
Often, customers who have bought something online will come into the shop asking for their items to be inflated or put together, when it would have been quicker and easier to buy straight from Just Because.
“We hope it stays busy once restrictions are lifted, but realistically once things reopen again we are not expecting things to stay as busy,” Blake said.
“People will start going back to the bigger firms.”
For now, the couple are looking to make hay while the sun shines and enjoy a stroke of good fortune that will be the envy of many business owners.