IT IS no secret many businesses have suffered during coronavirus lockdown.

But the hardships of the past few months have encouraged many to think outside the box.

Antony Wilson, owner of The Level Cafe in Brighton, is one of those thinkers.

His business was badly hit when lockdown was introduced in March. With people banned from socialising in the park, the chances of customers stopping by were slim.

And having to compete against national chains with more resources and staff, the cafe could not rely on selling its wood-fired pizzas alone.

So the business became an online shop.

Using website ShopAppy he has sold more than 240 make-your-own pizza kits, as well as coffee packages and kits full of Italian essentials like pasta, prosciutto and mozzarella.

“We’ve seen an incredible uplift in local businesses and markets turning to our platform as a way to reconnect with their communities,” said ShopAppy founder Dr Jackie Mulligan.

“Their resilience and determination to overcome this crisis is so inspiring, and I think it’s wonderful that many are now seeing how the internet can really help support their brick and mortar stores.”

The Argus: The Level Cafe owner Antony WilsonThe Level Cafe owner Antony Wilson

Not only has The Level Cafe thrived during lockdown, it now stands to do even better once measures are lifted.

Other businesses across Sussex are seeing the benefits too.

The number of restaurants and shops on ShopAppy has nearly doubled since March.

And the number of transactions has shot up 13-fold.

So teaming up with Visa, ShopAppy has extended free registration for businesses until July 31.

“Small businesses have been hard hit by the global outbreak of Covid-19, with many having to adapt very quickly to a new normal,” said Visa managing director Jeni Mundy.

“In this time of crisis, they need our support more than ever.

“Working with partners like ShopAppy, Visa is committed to ensuring thousands of small independent business across the UK are able to navigate their way through the current environment and recover.”

The Argus: The Level Cafe suffered a drop in business when coronavirus lockdown measures were introduced. Photo: AndrewThe Level Cafe suffered a drop in business when coronavirus lockdown measures were introduced. Photo: Andrew

And ShopAppy founder Dr Mulligan is encouraging more businesses to go online.

“Going online can seem like a daunting task,” she said.

“But ShopAppy is designed to make it a simple and cost-effective process that will support all types of businesses in the short and long term.

“Having the support of Visa means that we are able to reach even more local businesses up and down the country and provide them with a virtual shop window where they can continue to reach customers.”

A ShopAppy spokesman said: Research conducted by Visa last year showed having an online presence was viewed as essential to the success of nine in ten small high street businesses.

“Yet almost three in ten did not have a website.

“Shopappy has teamed up with Visa to offer a lifeline for small businesses looking to trade online.”

  • At The Argus, we are championing the work of traders during the coronavirus pandemic as part of our #BackingSussexBusiness campaign. We are always interested to hear how the community is coming together in this crisis. If you know of a local business battling to do all it can in these tough times and/or offering support to the local community, please get in touch at and