Before lockdown a stroll down your local high street was a bit baffling. You may have noticed that new shops popped up and then quickly closed or that shop spaces contained empty units. The high street was slowly disappearing. But take the same trip today and it's incredibly sad to see that so many businesses will never open again.
Overnight all types of businesses were forced to close and for some it signalled the end. COVID-19 has changed the landscape of high streets for companies big and small. It's never been more important to support local. This slogan used to relate only to small businesses who fought hard against their bigger competitors but it now seems applicable to all. If we want our high streets to thrive with new niche businesses, big branded companies and independent stores we must give our support.
On 15th June high street shops reopened after three months. Pictures flooded the internet and social media of people excitedly making purchases with two-hour queues outside big known retailers. It was liberating to finally go out and do something normal. But in order to keep this going the high street needs our continued support.
The emphasis is very much on safety, how can high streets entertain support from the public whilst maintaining a safe place for consumers and shop workers. From putting up notices, implementing rules and engaging with consumers safety measures are being applied to shops. Governmental advice and funding is vital to boost the retail economy.
Reopening High Streets Safely Fund
In addition to consumer support, the government has launched a Reopening High Streets Safely Fund. An amount of £50 million has been secured from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is being given to councils across England. The fund is designed to reenergise the high street and support the safe reopening of shops and other commercial areas.
Eat out to help out
The Eat Out to Help Out Scheme opened on 3 August 2020. Giving diners a 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks up to a maximum of £10 discount per person. Operating every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 and 31 August. Restauranteurs have welcomed the support but many fear that 13 days throughout August will not be enough to save all.
Banks, credit card companies and other institutions are helping small businesses to utilise creative ways to keep going. To make the transition upskilling has become a necessity, learning to enhance digital knowledge and web presence to keep businesses alive on the street and on the internet. Cost cutting and saving money has become an integral part of managing a business. From Landlord and supplier negotiations to implementing delivery schemes, small businesses are learning to navigate through the hard times.
During lockdown our needs changed. Not all of the big named brands could support our requirements which was good news for local establishments. This new consumer behaviour should continue with us adopting a local first approach.
However, it's all well and good to say support local communities when the main question on people's mind is how to shop safely. To provide a safe environment for everyone shop owners have carried out risk assessments and in line with government safety advice have installed new measures to protect consumers and staff.
We should be doing the following:
1. Following the rules
2. If asked provide your name and contact number
3. Keep at a safe distance
4. Use hand sanitiser
5. Wear a mask
6. Shop on our own or in small groups
7. Queue outside until told to go in
8. Use the one-way system
9. Avoid picking up items you don't want
10. Don't try on clothes in store
11. Be kind to others
12. Enter and depart by designated doors
13. Use contactless where possible
14. Wash hands thoroughly when get home
If you are worried about going out you can still support local by utilising the internet. Do your research and browse the web to see if your local shop or restaurant has a website. Many businesses have used various ecommerce ways to reinvent themselves. During lockdown this proved to be a life line for many. But as things return to the new normal many of us will fall back into old ways. By being aware of our shopping habits we can ensure that we spend our money to help revitalise those businesses in our area.
Coronavirus has affected both businesses big and small. The welfare of your high street is in your hands. To enable communities to thrive they need your support, where you purchase your goods and services matters more than ever.
The cold hard truth is that if you don't support local then the trip to your local high street will resemble that of a ghost town. Together we can save the high street and those who are struggling during this time. From the Government, to business owners and consumers we all have a major role to play.
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