Call to ‘save the high street’ as shops face second shut down

Stefan Gurney, Norwich BID. Pic: Archant

Stefan Gurney, Norwich BID. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

An urgent package of support is needed to help keep the high street alive – that’s the plea from Norwich leaders.

Alex Sargeant and Will Maddocks, at Strangers. Pic: EDP

Alex Sargeant and Will Maddocks, at Strangers. Pic: EDP - Credit: Archant

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich’s Business Improvement District (BID), urged the government to help retailers already suffering from a reduced footfall because of Covid, to avoid a long-term impact.

And Chris Sargisson, chief executive of the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, described the lockdown as “a devastating blow” to local businesses.

So far, just under 14,000 shops have closed for good nationwide because of the pandemic with 125,000 jobs lost. In Norwich, department store Jarrold made drastic cuts, making its chief executive Minnie Moll redundant, axing 90 jobs, back in August.

Other big high street stores like Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have also made job cuts and names like Laura Ashley have disappeared from the high street altogether.

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Mr Gurney said: “This further lockdown has come on top of some of the most difficult trading periods we have experienced and Norwich will face tougher times unless there is emergency business support from the government.

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“Market confidence has been hard hit and businesses are suffering from this knee-jerk stop start approach. We need clear measures, business support packages on top of furlough and effective track and trace and testing to be put in place during this enforced lockdown.

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“Without a lasting viable exit strategy, Norwich will suffer long term impact in both our public health and economy.”

Retailers were digesting the news of the mandatory shutdown from Thursday. Some were already working out how they can still trade, offering a takeaway service, which is permitted.

Mr Sargisson said: “The new restrictions are a devastating blow to all the Norfolk’s businesses who have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely. “Many firms are in a weaker position now than at the start of the pandemic, making it more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restriction. The temporary extension of the furlough scheme we hope will bring short-term relief to many firms, and responds to Chambers’ call for business support to be commensurate with the scale of the restrictions imposed.

“Norfolk Chambers together with business leaders across the country will be examining the detail of new restrictions and support carefully over the coming days.”

Alex Sargeant, who runs Strangers Coffee in Norwich, said all three of their venues would be open for takeaways from Thursday “while there’s demand for it”.

Annie Serruys, who runs Harry’s restaurant and bar in Chapelfield Gardens, said they would be also serving takeaway burgers and drinks from their hatch. “It’s exactly one year and 10 days since we opened our doors as Harry’s and it’s been a crazy ride so far. A first year of opening a business is difficult let alone with a pandemic and two national lockdowns but we’ve done it once and we can do it again.”

Meanwhile hair and beauty salons were cancelling appointments.

Deb Dominic, who runs Hairsmiths in Timber Hill, said they would be open for extended hours up until closing time on Wednesday. And Charlotte Croft, who runs Glambox beauty salon in Magdalen Street, urged customers to cancel appointments online up until December.

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