'Why are we shut when the big boys are all still open?'

That is the question from the Isle of Wight's small businesses this week as they endure Lockdown 2...when the big boys of the retail world are not and are taking an even bigger slice of the market.

While Island-owned clothing stores, bookshops and other specialists had to close their doors on November 4, supermarkets and other giants such as Currys PC World, Marks and Spencer and B and M Bargains remain open.

The County Press has spoken to a number of businesses and the mood is the same...anger and disappointment that the playing field is not level.

Steve Robson, owner of two Visual Impact clothes stores in Newport, employing six people, summed it up when he said: "You couldn't have written a worse scenario."

Steve said the first lockdown was bad enough with three months of shutdown, but now he is having to put up the 'Closed' sign in what he says is his critical pre-Christmas period.

Read more: One rule for big shops, one rule for small ones

"I would expect to do as much business in this four weeks as I would have done in the summer three months.

"We carry a lot of quality seasonal stock and if that stock is not sold by December 24, then it becomes sale stock in January.

Isle of Wight County Press: Steve Robson outside Visual ImpactSteve Robson outside Visual Impact

"We are playing by the rules but the supermarkets are not. Last time M and S was only allowed to open its food hall but now you can buy suits, shoes or whatever, but not from us. How is that fair?

"If lockdown can't be lifted in the first week of December, maybe I should start selling pick and mix and say I am in the same category as Marks and Spencer?"

Steve Morris, of the Mia stores in Ryde, Cowes and Newport, took to Facebook in an impassioned 'rant' about the inequality of the situation.

He spoke of the £1.7 billion government handout to supermarkets, much of which went to shareholders as dividends, and he criticised the IW Council too.

He said: "They have put in this half-hour free parking in Newport but nothing is open, so how does that help?"

And Sophia Brading, who carries out marketing for the hospitality industry and runs an Island networking group, listed a huge number of national chains who remain open, from The Range and Dunelm, selling furnishings to Currys PC World and Halfords.

Isle of Wight County Press: Marketer Sophia Brading.Marketer Sophia Brading.

Sophia told the CP: "Many small businesses have invested heavily in adapting their businesses and worked extremely hard to comply with our governments rules and made sure they are operating safely.

"For them to get shut down again after all this... it’s a heartbreaking further setback.

"I visited a client of mine’s hair salon locally over the summer and they have more PPE in place than most doctor surgeries and hospitals.

"This business owner can’t have done more to comply and be safe."

Isle of Wight councillor, business owner and the person involved with the Shaping Newport initiative to regenerate the county town, Julie Jones-Evans, said: "It's potentially harder to recover from Lockdown 2 as with the busiest season upon us where roughly 30 per cent of sales occur. It's a massive blow to not be trading.

"All we all want is a level playing field and allowing people to go for the essential shopping and adding non-essential items just goes against the spirit of lockdown.

"We've got the great Let's Buy Local campaign on the Island, yet local businesses have one hand tied behind their back.

"Shaping Newport was going to take over two High Street premises with pop-up Christmas shops to support small crafters and makers but this is looking very doubtful now."

Steve Holbrook, chief executive of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, said it was deeply unfair that large retailers could open but small Island businesses could not.

He urged small operators to take advantage of the grants coming through the IW Council and the Solent LEP and urged businesses to contact the chamber for help.

MP Bob Seely said: “Part of the reason for opposing this latest lockdown is the harm it will inevitably do to the retail sector and smaller shops in particular.

"It does seem instinctively unfair that goods sold as side-lines by large supermarkets cannot be bought in local independent stores.

Isle of Wight County Press: Bob Seely.Bob Seely.

"I have repeatedly asked the government to publish more data on which they are basing their decisions so that we have more transparency and more scrutiny and ultimately better decision making.

“On top of these reasons are a whole range of physical and mental health concerns regarding lockdowns.

“I am grateful to the government for the significant packages of support that they have put in place for small businesses and I have publicised all available support grants at every opportunity but there is much more to be done.

"I understand the frustration of smaller retailers and I support them in their view that they should be treated fairly.

“I hold regular talks with the IW Chamber of Commerce, IW Federation of Small Businesses and other representatives from the Island’s business community and I have been working with the IW FSB on a survey of small businesses on the Island.

"The results of this are due shortly and will give us a clear view both of specific issues businesses are facing and also the further assistance required to help them through the pandemic and its aftermath.

“One practical way we can all show solidarity with small traders is through the Buy Local scheme which I am very keen to support.”