Town welcomes back first shoppers as businesses reopen after lockdown
PUBLISHED: 20:00 15 June 2020
Solidarity and support was seen in Thetford on Monday, as businesses welcome backed shoppers for the first time since lockdown began.
Breckland Council leader, Sam Chapman-Allen, was amongst those who could be seen in the town today, on Monday, June 15, as he spoke with residents and business owners about how they will adapt to the ‘new normal’ of shopping.
Councillor Chapman-Allen will be visiting five of Norfolk’s market town’s over the next few days as part of the ‘Confidence’ campaign which aims to give people the confidence to safely shop in their towns and villages.
He said: “Today is my opportunity to come down and speak to some residents and business owners to make sure they feel confident to come out and shop again.
“As well as trying to alleviate some of their concerns and showing support and solidarity.
“For businesses it’s a really scary time. They have been closed for nearly 12 weeks and have only just opened back up again.
“We are working with them to overcome those fears and think about how they can improve their premises inside or externally. How they can get customers in safely, or if we could place physical furniture in the streets to allow punters or shoppers to sit outside.
“The plan isn’t perfect and at this moment in time speed is beating perfection, but we are working with businesses and all tiers of government to make sure teething problems are dealt with there and then.
“We have to do everything we can to make sure our businesses survive while keeping people safe.”
Breckland and Thetford Town Councillor, Roy Brame, was also doing his rounds in the town centre today and said he was pleased that people had ventured out.
“Today the sun is shining, people are out, and it looks better than I thought it was going to be,” said Mr Brame.
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“But most importantly people appear to be sticking to the rules which is good.”
The vice-chairman of Breckland Council approached the newly reopened shops, including Shoe Zone, which saw people queueing before its doors had even opened.
He asked if they would be interested in a gazebo to shelter people queueing or a way to move stock outside to sell in the open.
Mr Brame said: “One of the things we are looking at doing is putting shelters in place, because you won’t want to queue outside keeping two metre distance when it’s pouring with rain.
“Social distancing measures will likely go on for the whole summer, so a lot of these shops will want to sell their products outside and we are looking to see what we can do to help as a council.”
As a business owner in the town himself, Mr Brame has made the decision that he will not reopen Cobra Domestic Appliances, on Whitehart Street, as he carries on caring for his elderly father, who is high-risk.
He added: “We had permission to open but depending on your circumstances - it’s not always that easy. For me personally with an aging father, I really don’t want to open.
“It’s a one-man band so you only have to go to one house where it proves positive and the whole business shuts down again.
“I am just trying to pop in now and again, but we won’t be open as a retail outlet shop.”
But one business which has thrived during the lockdown is J. Jones Butchers, in King Street, and its owner Ian Hilton said today has been the busiest he has seen the town centre in weeks.
“We are very lucky because we have been busy throughout lockdown as a lot of people haven’t been going to the supermarket and coming to us instead, and now everyone has gone BBQ crazy,” said Mr Hilton.
“But today you can see there is a noticeable difference in the town, usually at about 1pm it would be dead but there are a lot more people walking around.”
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