Bideford’s independent businesses are calling on shoppers to continue their post-lockdown support in the run-up to Christmas.
Businesses in the town centre said they have been boosted by an uplift in trade since the coronavirus lockdown ended, with people making a conscious effort to shop local.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made a huge impact on the shopping experience for shoppers and retailers alike. Hand sanitising stations, face coverings, limits on customers, one-way systems and queues outside shops are now all part of the experience as businesses have made themselves Covid-secure.
Those measures haven’t dented trade so far, according to some town centre traders.
Adam Biggs, who owns Hip and Waisted with wife Fiona, said: “It was business as usual once we opened again and holiday makers were allowed down.
“On the whole the shopkeepers have gone to great lengths to make sure shops are safe.
“We’ve had more comments from people saying they want to support local shops and it’s noticeable with the closures we’ve had that people want to support what is still here.”
That sentiment has been echoed elsewhere in town. Josie’s Interiors owner James Webster said his shop has been as busy as usual since lockdown, and at Walter Henry’s Bookshop, owner Fiona Chope said more people seemed to be choosing to shop local.
She said: “I think people are a bit nervous going to big city centres and have maybe thought more about the local area and the importance of where they shop, because everybody has had a bit of time and space to slow down.
“We’ve definitely seen that effect and around here so many businesses that have all benefitted from that.
“For us, it’s vital people shop local. Because we have got things like Amazon online and Waterstones and things like that, people can get exactly what we are doing and possibly cheaper.
“It’s vital for our survival that people make a choice to come into a bricks and mortar shop and support us. It’s the same for all towns really.
“It’s nice living in an area like this if towns can sustain nice independent shops.”
Mr Webster said: “I think in Bideford there has been an uplift for a while, and it’s on the way up. There are new shops opening and it’s getting better and better.
“It’s so important for people to continue to support us. Every penny spent goes into the community, with the money spent by customers being used by us to shop with other local traders. That doesn’t happen with named brands.”
At Garlands, one of Bideford’s longest standing shops, the pandemic has had a bigger impact.
Owner Bridget Wyton said: “We have a lot of elderly customers and I find they are just not coming out.
“Trade is definitely quieter than before but you’ve got to do what you can. I’ve got a good level of customers who support me.
“I wouldn’t be here if people didn’t shop local. We need to drum it into people to support us, otherwise we won’t be here and I think people realise they have got to use local independent traders.
“I appreciate when people come to me first for something, and we all try to help each other out because we are all in the same boat.”
Across the road from Garland’s, skate shop Grind Supply Co opened its doors for the first time as lockdown eased.
Owner Rupert Butcher said despite the challenges, it had been a ‘warming’ way to open up.
He said: “There is such a good feeling of community in the town here at the moment so it’s positive. As a business it’s hugely important people shop local. I wouldn’t be here without customers supporting us.
“There are big online retailers for skateboarding and customers will say they want to see what we have first because it’s a local skate shop, and I hope people elsewhere have shared that success.”
Traders now hope the goodwill shown by shoppers throughout the summer period and into autumn will continue in the run-up to Christmas in what is a vital time for retailers each year.
Mr Webster said: “Christmas can really divide people in retail. There are people who do really well and those who don’t sadly. It’s going to show who people want to support and we’ve seen that during lockdown.”
Mr Biggs said: “It is our biggest season of the year, we make about a third of our yearly income in a month.
“We are not pessimistic about it at all. We know people are going to want to shop, and with a lot of big events called of, hopefully we will have more people visiting town instead of going elsewhere.”