The buzz is back on Norwich’s high street

Shoppers out in the city as more businesses are reopening. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Shoppers out in the city as more businesses are reopening. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

A few weeks ago, Norwich was a ghost town with only essential shops open and a smattering of people out to buy essential items or taking advantage of their daily exercises.

Shoppers Georgia Trew, left, and Laura Cooper. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Shoppers Georgia Trew, left, and Laura Cooper. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Now, though, the city is an entirely different place as life returns to normal.

On Sunday morning, there was a steady flow of shoppers who were looking forward to spending their cash at a greater range of shops.

Shopper Sorrel Grundy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Shopper Sorrel Grundy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Among them were Ryan Hubbard, 28, and Daniel Cole, 42, who both said not much had changed since before the pandemic.

Mr Hubbard, a brick specialist from Norwich, said: “It has been really easy to shop and, in my opinion, it is exactly the same as before.”

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Mr Cole, a technical instructor for forensic mental health also from the city, first went non-essential shopping on Friday during a week off work.

He said: “I had no issues whatsoever when I came in to grab some trainers. I actually prefer shopping now as it is quieter.”

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On White Lion Street, the owner of clothes shop Butterfly, Natasha Cox, said the first week of business had been successful.

The 46-year-old said: “Everyone has been really nice and everyone has come in and bought something. There is a lot less browsing now.

“Trade was a bit worse than expected but customers have told me people have avoided shopping in the first week just in case it was busy.

“I have no worries about the future as I know the customers we serve like to come in, see and feel clothes before they buy them rather than just shop online.”

Sorrel Grundy, 24, who works at the Holland and Barrett store in intu Chapelfield, said there had been more people than expected.

She said: “Coming back to work it was like nothing was different and there have been lots of shoppers in the city. People think it’s gone back to normal but I’m a bit cautious.”

For Nick Snell, 53, one of the owners of fashion shop Sevenwolves, on Exchange Street, the city’s community has been instrumental in the High Street’s ability to weather the pandemic.

He said: “Norwich is so unified and it is a community based city. I don’t know another city like it. People have come together and we’re very lucky they want to support independent business. We’ll get through it together.”

Enjoying takeaway coffees from Pret A Manger on Gentleman’s Walk were friends Laura Cooper, 31 a business banker, who lives on St Stephen’s Road, and Georgia Trew, 25, who works in recruitment, from Sprowston.

It was the first shopping outing for non-essential items for the pair, who would normally shop every weekend.

But they said the pandemic had changed their shopping habits and they would now only shop once a month.

Ms Cooper estimated she had saved on average £100 a week and lockdown had changed her attitude to shopping.

She said: “I was a bit hesitant to come shopping and feel a bit anxious about it. But I saw people queuing for Primark at 10am.”

Robin Ebbage, the manager of St Gregory’s Antiques and Collectables on Pottergate, which first opened six years ago, said trade during the first week had been generally better than expected.

Only one of his 40 traders decided not to reopen on Monday due to separate health problems and he found an instant replacement.

Mr Ebbage said: “Everyone has wanted to and come back to work. Most of the week has been OK. We had no expectations when we reopened so it was better than I thought it would.

“That said Saturday was extremely quiet when it is normally very busy. Only about one-third of the amount of customers came in.”

Abdullah Manun, 28, returned to work as a technician at ITech, a mobile phone repair shop on Haymarket, on Monday after being furloughed.

He said there was no difference in the number of customers seeking repair work for mobile phones compared to the same period last year.

Mr Manun joked: “People seem to be breaking more stuff during lockdown so there is a lot of repair work to be done. It will be tough but we will definitely survive.”

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