Town's high street benefitting from people working from home
- Credit: Sarah Hussain
Market towns could be benefitting from people working from home as more people shop local.
Shop owners in Downham Market have found this to be the case, with the town's high street seen as becoming more "gentrified".
Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink Boutique on the High Street, said she was very hopeful for the future and for the "flourishing" of the town as businesses make a return following the easing of restrictions.
The ladies boutique reopened on April 12 and is now open six days a week and on the first Sunday in the month as a trial to help get business back up and running again.
Mrs Moloney, who issued a shop local plea after her business took a 60pc hit last year, hopes the increase in home working will encourage more people to support shops on their doorsteps.
She said the high street was "amazingly busy" in the week lockdown eased but has found the town has become a bit calmer in the weeks since.
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She said: "The high street is definitely feeling more hopeful, and the customers are delighted to be out and about but the caution is still noticeable.
"Everything crossed that all the town’s businesses bounce back, and we don’t have to close again.
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"Hopefully in a few years Downham will have many more independents bringing excellent service and quality goods."
Mrs Moloney said her increase in gross income was a "welcome relief", but that there is still some recovery to go before things return to normal.
Lesley Bilton of independent ladies clothing and accessories shop Ten Market Square also reopened her business when the restrictions lifted.
She said people were happy to once again be in a shop and to see products in person, adding that less people want to travel longer distances to do so.
She said: "People are wary of big crowds.
"I think little town's will do better after this pandemic. If town's play it right and big up their small towns we will keep people here. These little town's need anything that can help.
"People do not want to jump in a car anymore and go a million miles away."
Although she has not noted an increase in footfall, she said she has loyal customers who show their support, and that the town gets good holiday trade and tourists.
Richard Gill, who runs a butchers on High Street, said he has seen an increase in new faces in the town and that his business has been benefiting from people shopping locally.
He said: "Business has picked up a lot, it's more buoyant ever since the pandemic started. The first lockdown was really busy and it's stayed like that ever since.
"I think a lot of people are shopping local and care about where they get their stuff from, and are happy with the products.
"We are a nation of small shops and I think after all these years we have got it right.
"Downham is a special place with independent shops and variety."
The butcher said it is currently difficult to gauge footfall as people are coming out less whereas previously he would typically see people come out three or four times a week.
Downham Market Town Council and West Norfolk Council (WNC) have also been coming up with ideas to encourage people back into the town, which will include consultations later this month with businesses, residents and visitors.
A WNC spokesperson said: "We have already been working together to ensure that Downham Market has the floor stickers and signage that is needed and the town council have been helping to promote the available business grants.
"The town is busy and will hopefully get busier. Businesses are already welcoming customers back safely, and other businesses are preparing for the next step in May."
The council is urging people to support their local retailers, personal care provides and hospitality businesses as restrictions lift.