So you want an economic recovery plan? This Gloucestershire market town could have just that

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 24 July 2020 9:05

So you want an economic recovery plan? This Gloucestershire market town could have just that

On the day that compulsory face coverings in shops reminds us how long the shadow of covid-19 falls, the article below is a boon against negativity and points at a roadmap for others to follow. 

Tony Davey, the chairman of re-invigorated Stroud Chamber of Trade and Commerce, is bound to be pro the capital of the Five Valley’s district, but in the article he below describes a town where the power of community and localism is working its magic. 

No expensive advertising campaigns, no one waiting around to be led, everyone standing up to be counted, investments made pre-pandemic maintaining momentum (such as the GFirst LEP-backed Dransfield Five Valleys shopping centre) - but we’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

We have left Mr Davey's comments unchanged. If you want to feel good about Gloucestershire and its economic future – read on...

Pictured: Tony Davey,  chairman of Stroud and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce – one of the committee who have been distributing 200 posters across the town centre

“Six weeks since “non-essential” retail has been allowed to reopen its doors and it is a mixed story for retail in market towns across the country; a relatively strong first week, followed by stronger weeks two and three," said Mr Davey,  chairman of Stroud Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

“The re-opening of hospitality businesses, barbers and hair salons also helped draw more visitors into our towns, and even now there are people venturing out for the first time since lockdown. 

“We have new businesses opening in Dransfield’s Five Valleys Food Market, which are very busy indeed – a diverse mix of traditional and international cuisine that had been delayed from opening due to lockdown. 

“Many businesses that were on restricted hours are starting to extend the hours and days they are open. 

“However, whilst some businesses have maintained good levels of trade, others report initial peaks have tailed off and they are much quieter than hoped – which is following reported national trends.  

“A healthy and vibrant town has a blend of both independent and national brands – offering both unique and individual items alongside predictable staples. 

“In Stroud we are lucky to have a good variety and an understanding that for our businesses to thrive we need to work together. 

“Stroud District Council are currently running a campaign across the market towns, in printed media and online, to remind everyone their high street is back in business.

“At Stroud Chamber of Trade we have embraced the message and the campaign, printing 200 posters that complement the Council’s work, and distributing them for free to businesses within the town. 

Pictured: All types of businesses are taking part in the #shoplocal, #shopstroud campaign, from chocolate shops to dog groomers; estate agents to fashion retailers - including Ruff ‘n’ Ready Dog Grooming (above)

“The posters have been well received both in independent businesses and the multiples, with a sea of the distinctive orange posters appearing in the business windows across the town centre. 

“It’s a clear message to every visitor – our town is open, we’ve worked hard to make them safer places to visit, and we’re ready to welcome you back – supporting businesses in our town feeds our local economy and keeps Stroud alive. 

“To help showcase the goods Stroud has to offer, we are encouraging the community to post their favourite purchases online, tagged with #InStroud and #ShopStroud – so spreading the love across social media and raising awareness of the diversity of businesses in town. 

“In addition, we are encouraging the businesses to do the same; so providing maximum exposure for the businesses and a very compelling message to our loyal customers to return. 

“Both of the town’s award-winning markets have spread out to serve their customers more safely. The Shambles market now also occupies part of Church Street car park on Saturday, with the Farmers Market spreading out into the newly closed-to-traffic London Road area.

“On street parking has also been suspended, enabling some roads within the town to have wider areas for pedestrians to navigate more safely. These moves haven’t been universally popular, with many businesses not welcoming them, but some customers enjoying more space and less congestion. 

“As research from Springboard has supported (1), this time our towns are not losing to the out-of-town retail parks, who have seen declines in their footfall. 

“Whilst economic uncertainty and continued strong Internet sales will be playing their part, there is some evidence that public confidence in safety is also a significant factor. 

“With the introduction of the wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets being mandatory from today (Friday, July 24), and investments to make our streets safer to navigate on foot with physical distancing, we look forward an increasing number of shoppers and visitors feeling more comfortable to come into town and support their local business community. 

“Stroud is a haven for shopping local and we are confident that our local economy will stabilise soon, though there remains some tough times ahead.”