‘Norwich has dealt with it incredibly well’ - Boost for city centre traders as shoppers return
PUBLISHED: 17:52 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 07:31 08 July 2020
Norwich traders have been given a confidence boost this weekend after experiencing a hustle and bustle in the city centre similar to a “normal” Saturday.
Across the city’s market, shopping centres and streets, businesses have seen a steady increase in people in recent weeks.
Tim Bishop, of The Forum, said data has shown a gradual growth in recent weeks, with July 4 only 10pc lower in comparison to the same time last year.
Norwich City Council reported 1,836 cars in its three multi-storey car park on July 4 in comparison to 6.031 cars for the same weekend in 2019.
The weekend would have tied in with the Lord Mayor’s celebrations, which went virtual this year due to the pandemic.
Mr Bishop said safety measures taken by businesses and the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) were a step to helping people gain confidence to come back and boost the economy.
Mr Bishop said: “It is nowhere near normal, but it’s the sign that we are seeing a start of return to activity in the centre.
“We can see that steady growth.”
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Mr Bishop added that supporting local traders was critical to the economy.
He said: “We are trying to build confidence, not by saying ‘come back, come back’, but by putting in a safe environment and you have done the best you can to minimise the risk so the public feel able to come back.
“We do need to get the economy moving again.”
His optimism has been shared by Jonty Young, of Norwich Lanes Traders’ Association, who said he was given “great confidence” for businesses when he walked through The Lanes on Saturday.
He said: “It felt like a normal Saturday. It felt as if there were more people around going for food and browsing. The increased footfall is such a boost, psychologically at the very least. I think the one thing we do have is an abundance of experience, the people that were out did not seem particularly scared, no-one was jostling to get out of each others way. The safety measures coming out of BID has worked.”
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Joe Ereira, website director at Dogfish, said as well as a surge to its new website, the city centre was no longer a ghost town with more people coming back to the streets.
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He said: “Norwich has dealt with it incredibly well, I do not expect anything less from Norwich.
“A lot of places have a similar vibe to Norwich Lanes but we are quite open, other lanes are essentially alleyways we are quite lucky we have an open environment to work with.
“Also the people in Norwich that are comfortable with following the procedures which we have and in the city as well.”
At Norwich Market, several traders said there was a surge of people queuing for food stalls at the weekend.
A trader, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It was like a normal Saturday. I think it depends on what commodity we are selling and if that is in demand or not. Everyone is different.
“Footfall we have to double it at least for me to be like before and on par to what it was like before lockdown.”
Ann Smith, of Barry’s of Norwich, said her daughter Deborah Worley, who owns the business, described the market as being busy at the weekend.
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The fabric stall has been boosted with an increase in demand for fabric to make face masks, but said they would miss income from visitors travelling into the city on coaches.
Castle Quarter said it also expects a substantial boost in footfall with the return of leisure operators.
Eric Kirk, chairman of Magdalen street area and Anglia Square traders’ association and community group (MATA), said that more shoppers were returning to the street with confidence.
More than 80pc of the businesses had reopened but some cafes and restaurants had remained shut because social distancing rules left it not viable.
Mr Kirk said: “During lockdown because of the food businesses that were open, footfall was slow and steady. Now it is better. People are venturing out. There are more people using the buses however they have problems with social distancing. I think city centres will change but Magdalen Street is more of a social centre. I think Magdalen Street will remain more or less the same as it is now as it is a different type of shopping environment compared to city centres. It has every day shops.”
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A Norwich City Council spokesman said: “The pandemic has, of course, affected the day-to-day lives of everybody. Some businesses, such as some of our traders on Norwich Market, have been able to operate throughout the pandemic and even those who have remained open, in many cases, have made remarkable efforts to adapt their services to meet the unique needs of this crisis. Whether that’s been providing online, delivery or click and collect services, or in other instances, joining forces with other providers to promote or sell each other’s goods, or adjusting the products they offer.
“As the lockdown has been easing further, the work businesses and organisations have been putting into getting themselves ready for re-opening, in a way that puts the safety of staff, customers and visitors first, is absolutely remarkable.
“From what we can see, people on the whole feel confident in the measures that have been put in place, while at the same time, understand that the crisis is not completely over. So, they are getting out and about and supporting local trade more, while exercising a degree of caution.”
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