Your city needs you: Shoppers urged to back indies in reopening
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The debit cards are out, the shopping bags are primed. Norwich is going to be open for business - to a greater extent than it has been in months - from Monday, and retailers are urging shoppers to remember their independent offerings.
Footfall is slowly beginning to eek its way up as the high street readies to reopen, with Centre for Cities data showing that footfall in Norwich is now at an index reading of 25 compared to a pre-pandemic level of 100.
Previously - in the first week of January after the latest lockdown was announced - it sat as low as six.
And the pound in the consumers pocket has never been as powerful with the economy starved of cash. But it is the businesses which are not backed by millionaires or international chains which need it the most.
Keeping money in the city has never been so vital. According to research by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies for every £1 spent at an independent business 63p ends up back in the local economy compared to only 5p spent at a national or international retailer.
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And some of the city's best-loved establishments, its pubs, are gearing up for one of the busiest seasons to date.
Rose Hanison is the landlady of the Black Horse and The Earlham in Earlham Road, and said: "We're actually waiting until the 15th - the Thursday - to open.
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"We made the decision because our staff are all full time and we know that for the next couple of months they'll be flat out working weekends. We want them to have the chance to go out and have a meal and a few drinks with their friends.
"We're also lucky in that we've got a massive beer garden at the Black Horse which means we can get a lot of people in. We won't be taking bookings because we want to retain that sense of being in a traditional pub and wandering into the beer garden and grabbing a seat.
"I can entirely see why some pubs have made that decision though and we will be taking bookings for inside when we can open that."
Leanne Fridd, who owns Bookshop Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Timberhill alongside husband Dan, said: "We're so excited for Monday. It feels like this lockdown has lasted forever and we are so excited to have people back in the shop.
"As with the previous 2 lockdowns, we are a little apprehensive about reopening but it's certainly not as daunting as the first time.
"We have spent the last 3 months updating the shop so that it feels fresh yet familiar for our customers. We have added new furniture, lots of new books and bookshelves to put them on and even bought our coffee machine.
"We are just hoping that this time we'll be able to keep our doors open to our lovely customers. We miss them!"
She was echoed by a spokeswoman for the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), who said: "We’re really looking forward to seeing some of our favourite places open again on Monday.
"The Norwich community has been so good at supporting local businesses over the lockdown period – particularly over Christmas – and we’d love to see that continue as places re-open over the coming months.
"Studies have shown that two thirds of UK consumers are now more likely to shop in their local communities than they were a year ago, which is not only heartening in terms of the local economy, but in terms of our impact on the environment too."
Jonty Young, a spokesman for the Norwich Lanes, said: "All the Lanes businesses we have talked to can’t wait to get started again. They are also being joined by some exciting new businesses which is incredible considering the present climate. The support for the Lanes on social media and via email has been unbelievable too and we are obviously hoping that this goodwill translates into good footfall."