Poker with the pandemic: Stroud continues to play its cards cleverly as it emerges from lockdown
We’re well into the habit of wearing a face covering, managing queues and the challenges posed by enabling physical distancing within shops, hospitality, services and businesses in the district, writes Tony Davey, chairman of Stroud and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce.
What’s not entirely clear is what the coming months will bring.
Hospitality, we have learned through the Tourism Forum, is faring better than some had predicted. Hotels report that leisure stays, especially for one or two nights, are strong and occupancy levels very good.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been well received and very well used, for some enabling them to return to a close to pre-COVID level of business on the offer days.
This didn’t, generally, mean a move from other days to only the offer days – so helping to bolster this highly-impacted sector. Within Stroud, the Food Market within the Five Valleys Shopping Centre continues to go from strength to strength, with the first Night Market at the end of August being a huge success – serving food from around the world until 9pm in a bustling market setting.
The challenge for all hospitality businesses across the District is to maintain the flow of customers now the scheme has finished.
Many local businesses are providing their own schemes for September, which hopefully will benefit customers and the businesses alike.
With restrictions in place and full levels of services available from tattoo parlours, barbers, salons and beauty therapists, we hear positive stories of recovery there and consistent levels of custom.
In general retail, it remains a mix. Some report an uplift in sales from last year with others at the opposite end of the scale and still struggling.
Some businesses (such as hardware) where they remained open during lockdown and serving their communities well, are experiencing significant drops as people return to the out of town multiple retailers instead.
One of the biggest questions is … what will the landscape look like once schools return in September?
As recently as last week there were customers venturing out for the first time since lockdown. Will more venture out once the schools return?
Many businesses in Stroud have reported a slowing in trade towards the end of the day, which also means it could be an ideal time of day for those who are looking for a quieter shopping, browsing and general experience.
To harness that opportunity, The Stroud and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce have introduced a new “Less Rush, More Hush” campaign for September.
This highlights the more tranquil and less busy shopping times. Coming into town from 2pm offers excellent value for money parking, easier access to the many cafes, bars and restaurants, and a quieter shopping experience for those who seek it.
Hopefully the reopening of schools will also bring the return of customers after school. Only time will tell as the “new now” is unfolding every day.
To find out more visit Stroud and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce.