Opinion

Footfall, positivity and optimism are good in Stroud says the chamber of trade

Written by: Tony Davey, Stroud and District Chamber of Trade | Posted 01 July 2020 6:00

Footfall, positivity and optimism are good in Stroud says the chamber of trade

It’s been a busy and apprehensive first three weeks, but generally footfall in Stroud has been reported as good – there is a great feeling of positivity and optimism from the businesses. 

Stroud has a strong body of independent retailers and a fair number of national chains too – with staged opening of both during the first three weeks and the majority reopened by the start of July. 

The first two weeks were an unknown quantity for us all, but many of the businesses have reported good or better than expected sales figures, even given some days were quieter than others. Some of the businesses started with reduced opening hours, enabling them to ease back into the new way of working, and plan their staffing around safety measures. 

This has worked well and many have been extending their hours in reflection of demand in these first weeks ahead of plan – a positive sign. 

This has meant we have already passed our 20th update of the “Stroud Is Open” Directory (available at www.stroud.org.uk)  which details over 130 businesses with their opening hours and days of operation; a directory that has been accessed and downloaded over 500 times in the first few days of release. 

The shoppers and business users have been very enthusiastic to see their favourites reopened; the business owners have equally been delighted to welcome back familiar faces and greet new customers too. 

As was hoped, consumers are valuing the local shopping experience – less queuing, less congestion, easy accessibility and free parking in many car parks as we start to rebuild the local economy. 

This is coupled with the conscious decision to play their part in supporting local business and how that support bolsters the local community too.

With so many discovering what is available within our town, without facing queues that you may have at supermarkets and at out-of-town centres, they are valuing the convenience and hassle free local shopping experience. 

Further, we are finding customers are travelling from to Stroud from Cheltenham and Gloucester, specifically to avoid congestion and for a more open shopping experience. 

With many office workers still working from home there are more customers able to shop locally to their homes, rather than at their workplaces out of the area – which also helps footfall and interest in investing local. 

July will see the first of the traders starting to open in the Five Valleys Shopping Centre Food Market. 

The new traders have been keeping us informed of their opening plans and it will give a broader variety of food options in an exciting new setting. 

We will also see Sub Couture open the first shop outside of London’s fashionable Notting Hill. 

This will be the second new clothing shop to open in almost as many weeks, with A Brilliant Disguise having opened in the High Street – both having their opening plans delayed due to lockdown. 

Businesses have continued to adapt to serve their customers best. Local deliveries continue to be strong, click and collect and ring and collect services are helping shoppers pick up just what they need, when they need it. 

Businesses such as Saymor Furnishers are finding their Private Shopping Appointments are very well received by their customers. It allows for a personal shopping experience that can be easily managed within social distancing guidelines. This is something other businesses in town are also offering. 

Business owners have invested in ensuring shoppers and visitors can feel safer when in their premises. 

In conjunction with this, it is also important they can feel safer in the journeys to and from the businesses, which is challenging in a town that was not designed for the levels of physical distancing we need to follow today. 

We need more space to move, space to queue and distanced space for our award winning markets. 

The Chamber of Trade have been working with Stroud Town Council, Stroud District Council and Gloucestershire County Council to help formulate, share and implement measures that work to keep everyone safer in town. 

The coming days will see changes on our roads to make them safer for pedestrians and easier to navigate around. Some signage has already been installed, with more to come. 

Next, it will be good to welcome back the hair salons and barbers (something eagerly awaited by so many) alongside restaurants, bars and all the businesses that are able to reopen following the further relaxation of restrictions. 

This will, with appropriate socialdistancing and risk mitigation, provide access to a more diverse range of businesses that the economy needs to regenerate. 

It will also bring with it greater footfall and new challenges we know our town is prepared to manage safely, together. 

To help remind visitors about the need for continued physical distancing, Stroud Chamber of Trade created the video above to "help address some of the confusion following the announcement of reduced social distancing measures on 23rd June".

To find out more about the chamber of trade visit Stroud Chamber of Trade.