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‘It came like a tidal wave’ - How Dereham businesses are planning lockdown fightback

PUBLISHED: 16:34 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:39 19 May 2020

Thousands of businesses across the county are looking at ways to adapt their businesses to keep customers safe during the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Flour and Bean and Forget Me Not Flowers

Thousands of businesses across the county are looking at ways to adapt their businesses to keep customers safe during the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Flour and Bean and Forget Me Not Flowers

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Like businesses up and down the country, shops in Dereham are changing how they work, and planning for the ‘new normal’.

Rachel Drozd's children holding some of Flour and Bean's cookies. Picture: Rachel DrozdRachel Drozd's children holding some of Flour and Bean's cookies. Picture: Rachel Drozd

Covid-19 has made a tough year for the High Street even worse for many, and businesses have had to be flexible in the face of new expectations in terms of social distancing and hygiene.

Triharder, a multisport store for keen swimmers, bikers and runners, made the decision to remain open during the height of the pandemic.

Ben Walker, owner of the store in Astra Court, said: “The bike servicing has been quite busy though as people dust off long-lost machines from their shed.

“We also had a rush for indoor cycle trainers but sadly we ran out of stock.”

The flour and Bean store in Dereham. Picture: Rachel DrozdThe flour and Bean store in Dereham. Picture: Rachel Drozd

The store had been operating with reduced opening times while also asking customers to adhere to social distancing.

“Things have been significantly slower than normal for this time of the year,” said Mr Walker. “Normally as the sun starts to shine people start to buy their wet suits for open-water swimming and get their triathlon kit and bikes for the races ahead.”

In the town centre, Flour and Bean reopened on May 12 after being closed since lockdown began in March.

The business, which has stores dotted around the county, is offering collection services from its Dereham, Aylsham, Potter Heigham and Fakenham stores.

Rachel Drozd, HR manager at Flour and Bean. Picture: Rachel DrozdRachel Drozd, HR manager at Flour and Bean. Picture: Rachel Drozd

Manager Rachel Drozd said: “It [coronavirus] came like a tidal wave, we needed time to look at how we could work safely.

“We have been strictly adhering to social distancing guidelines and protective measures have been implemented in the stores for the safety of all.”

The business has also set up an online click and collect service for its Dereham store.

Mrs Drozd said: “At the moment we have a vastly reduced workforce and therefore can’t immediately start local home deliveries, but we are working towards this in coming weeks.

Forget Me Not Flowers owner Janet Dodd in her shop on Shipdham Road. Picture: Forget Me Not FlowersForget Me Not Flowers owner Janet Dodd in her shop on Shipdham Road. Picture: Forget Me Not Flowers

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“Looking into the distant future, we don’t know what our store will look like, especially the coffee shop. We’re going to have to wait for more guidance from the government.”

Forget Me Not Flowers, based on Shipdham Road, has also had to alter the way it operates.

Owner Janet Dodd has been able to keep the shop open as most of her business can be done online.

Forget Me Not Flowers delivered bouquets to Kay Emsley, Cammy Emsley and Bex Allan from their grandmother in Yorkshire: Picture: Forget Me Not FlowersForget Me Not Flowers delivered bouquets to Kay Emsley, Cammy Emsley and Bex Allan from their grandmother in Yorkshire: Picture: Forget Me Not Flowers

However, she has had to ask customers to give her extra notice as it has become more difficult to get hold of flowers.

Mrs Dodd said: “We have been very lucky that we have been quite busy during lockdown. We have been doing funeral flowers and deliveries.

“Sometimes we have had to deliver to people that have the virus or recovering. I’m happy that we can bridge the gap between families in Norfolk and the rest of the country.”

On Tuesday, May 19, Mrs Dodd delivered bouquets to four sisters that are key workers, sent from their grandmother in West Yorkshire.

Rachel Hoskins, the fourth key working sister that received flowers from Forget Me Not Flowers from her Grandmother in Yorkshire. Picture: Rachel HoskinsRachel Hoskins, the fourth key working sister that received flowers from Forget Me Not Flowers from her Grandmother in Yorkshire. Picture: Rachel Hoskins

“To deliver the flowers to three of them at the same time was special – they were over the moon with the flowers and really emotional.”

Looking ahead, the florist has been thinking about how her business will work once lockdown restrictions are lifted again.

Mrs Dodd said: “I think I will be able to go back into my shop, I will be able to organise click and collect at different times and converse with people outside.

“I’m very thankful I have been able to do lots of my business online and on Facebook.”

Sarah Thexton runs PhotoFairytales, an award-winning online gift shop run from her family home in Dereham.

She said: “Some would say I’m a non-essential service so I should close like the high street. But my instinct is to help people – to show up, to provide a little cheer, to fulfil a need.

“After all, birthdays are still happening, anniversaries are still coming around, babies are being born – and loved ones you can’t visit might need a little ‘thinking of you’ surprise to help them through.”


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