North Devon Council’s Economic Development Team discuss how the high street is changing and what you can do to bolster it through their ‘Live Love Local’ campaign.

Picture: North Devon CouncilPicture: North Devon Council

The campaign celebrates and supports the many North Devon businesses that have reopened safely following lockdown and reminds residents to shop, eat and buy local.

Q: How is the retail industry evolving?

A: Covid-19 has had a profound impact on retailers. There continues to be a rise in online shopping, supermarkets are expanding into non-food retailing and services, and the presence of out-of-town shopping all undermine the role of the high street.

A positive result is a surge in the use of local retailers - many local butchers and greengrocers, for example, adapted quickly and were able to offer delivery services in trying times.

Picture: North Devon CouncilPicture: North Devon Council

We saw an increased sense of community in North Devon that we hope will continue.

Q: Do you think these changes will become part of ‘the new normal’?

A: There is no doubt that change is happening and it is important to embrace it, but retail will always be a core function of town centres.

It is important that the shift to ‘shopping local’ is embraced. North Devon Council has launched the ‘Live Love Local’ campaign in support of local businesses and to let the public know that they have reopened safely and are ready to welcome them back.

It is also important that the sense of community is built upon. If our high streets are to flourish, they need to be the heart of the town centre and their community once again.

Q: How has Covid-19 shifted consumer behaviour?

A: Whilst we have seen a surge in support for local shops and services, customers remain concerned about safety.

‘Maybe’ from the High Street Task Force found that 31pc of those surveyed considered that safety would currently dictate where they did their Christmas shopping.

North Devon Council is working with local businesses to instil confidence in the community by ensuring the safety of our high streets and the shops on them.

Q: What is the impact on high street stores?

A: We are seeing a decline in national stores and vacancy rates but we mustn’t let this cloud the many successes to be celebrated.

In the last three weeks alone, we welcomed three new independent stores to Barnstaple high street and South Molton has told us their Pannier Market is as busy as ever.

North Devon Council has been working on a vision for Barnstaple town centre to determine what is required to make it the lively, dynamic and exciting social place it deserves to be.

Q: How can I support the businesses on my local high street?

A: North Devon Council has launched the ‘Live Love Local’ campaign in support of our brilliant local businesses to help them reopen and operate safely and encourage our residents to shop, buy and eat out to help out.

There is a wealth of quirky and independent businesses on our high streets, all of whom have worked hard to put measures in place to keep customers safe.

There’s such a variety of goods available and at fantastic value. Why not check them out for yourselves and catch a bite to eat or a cuppa in one of our fantastic cafes or restaurants?

Q: Are online-shoppers missing out by not shopping in-store?

A: Absolutely, the local high street offers so much. Not only is there a range of quality goods on offer but you can make a day of it! Meet friends, have a glass of wine or coffee and enjoy the shopping experience safely following the measures in place.

Many of our local businesses are also running offers in the lead up to Christmas. Check them out in-store or online.

Q: Is it safe to shop in my local high street?

A: Yes, we have signage in all of our main towns, sanitiser stations in the public realm and there is a ‘keep left’ system operating in Barnstaple high street to aid social distancing.

Individual businesses are working hard to manage the number of people in their store. Queuing systems are in place and gentle reminders to wear your mask and sanitise your hands on arrival.

Your local businesses are there, ready and waiting to welcome you back in a safe way.

Visit northdevon.gov.uk/live-love-local for more information. Keep up to date with what’s happening in your community by following ‘Live Love Local’ on Facebook and Instagram.

Sign up to receive regular ‘Live Love Local’ bulletins by email.

North Devon Council’s ‘Live Love Local’ campaign is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and Her Majesty’s Government.