Retail reopens and springs forward
There was joy and excitement yesterday as millions of ‘non essential’ businesses in England were allowed to reopen again after the third national lockdown because of Covid-19. Newcomers fresh shop fronts are brightening the streets in Chichester this week.
There was also a positive change in the form of several new premises which are welcoming visitors for the first time.
Jewellers R L Austin Ltd offered a temptingly smart shop front in East Street. Nearby St Wilfrid’s hospice are now creating a boutique feel with their new pre-loved vintage bazaar in this prime location, which used to house the Oasis fashion company.
Charles Clinkard is offering footwear for the whole family after seeing a gap in the market. For example Clarks is closing some of its stores in the area and focusing on their online offering. The new Charles Clinkard South Street store is perfectly placed to be extremely popular as the season progresses.
A striking new restaurant ‘Burgerz and Bangerz’ opened today also in South street providing diners of all ages with hearty dishes in a colourful, street art inspired informal environment. They cater for vegetarian, gluten free and vegan diets too.
Next door is Lime Squeezy which is a Thai restaurant that is currently being decorated ready for a grand launch in May.
These newcomers join several new businesses which started up in the town as part of the councils Pop Up Shop Scheme last year.
Joe Stack at The Chichester Observer reported that these include Co Co Baby which sells new and second hand baby equipment. The Apuldram centre now has a base to showcase its wares and the profits help to support the talent of the local people that the Centre helps.
Greenie’s clothing is a much needed new clothes shop in Crane Street located just off the main high street.
Around the corner in North Street fresh fronted Kokoro have become the first company to sell Japanese food such as sushi and sashimi. Located in the heart of this cultural Sussex city Kokoro will be wonderful news for foodies heading into town from near and far.
Vaccination confidence creates renewed demand for physical stores
The BBC cited the success of the vaccination program in boosting a nationwide demand for shopping in bricks and mortar stores as shoppers feel safer and generally have a renewed optimism for visiting public places. The relatively low numbers of Covid-19 in the UK as the 3rd lockdown restrictions are lifted gradually combined with the safety guidelines in carefully organised commercial premises, have persuaded most people to support their local towns once again.
Despite the generous government subsidies for businesses there are many thousands of companies who have not been able to weather the financial storm created by the need to stop the spread of coronavirus and the forced closures.
It is noteworthy that 2 of the new boutiques in Chichester are charity shops who do not pay rates and therefore have an advantage commercially against privately owned brands. The local council needs privately owned companies of all sizes to continue to fill the commercial centre in order to pay taxes that support the economy and other services that the local area needs.
At the moment the hospitality industry is only allowed to serve food and drinks outside. Many restaurants, pubs and cafes are still not making any profit under the current restrictions as their profit margins are usually already low when taking into account occupying a normal seating arrangement inside.
Team leaders in all sorts of organisations are keen to get back in the swing of trading and they are all looking forward to further lifting of restrictions. Step 3 which includes indoor reopening for the hospitality industry is due to begin on May 17th. This change will happen next month if all is well with Boris Johnson’s roadmap, the country’s statistical health criteria that needs to be met and the continuing vaccine roll out.
It is heartening to see a traditional market city like Chichester in Sussex full of colour and life again. Enterprises are operating in a challenging retail environment where online purchases make up the majority of sales of food, clothing and home furnishings. Therefore managers will have to provide excellent customer service, quality products and an entertaining experience for all visitors, to encourage them to keep returning regularly in the future.
(1) ‘New business pops up in Chichester city centre’ Joe Stack, 18 March 2020 New business pops up in Chichester’ Joe Stack Chichester Observer
(2) ‘High Street sales tipped to surge 50% on 12 April, BBC News 8 April 2021 ‘High Street sales tipped to surge 50% on 12 April’, BBC News