Shop local during lockdown – a message to Chester-le-Street shoppers

Stay safe, and keep supporting our local businesses as much as you can – every purchase, kind word or Facebook like can make a difference.

If you saw the Prime Minister’s broadcast last night, or have read about it since, you will have seen that there is to be no immediate change regarding what shops are allowed to open.

Additional types of shops may be allowed to open from 1 June, at the earliest. Hospitality businesses – such as cafes, restaurants and bars – will not open before July, “if the numbers support it”.

Since lockdown, only “essential retailers” – such as food shops, hardware stores, pet shops, and others listed on the Government website – have been permitted to open, and this will continue to be so. Some essential retailers have remained open from the beginning, while others across the country (like B&Q) chose to close initially but have since reopened, having worked out how to create a safe environment for staff and customers.

Food delivery and takeaway has also been allowed – including for businesses, like restaurants, that haven’t offered delivery services previously. Following last night’s speech, these rules remain unchanged too.

What you can do

As always, we encourage you to support those Chester-le-Street retailers that are allowed to trade at the moment, particularly the small independent businesses. We are sharing updates on social media where we can – if there’s an open town centre business that we haven’t mentioned, tag us or let us know so we can fix that.

Other retailers than cannot open their doors at the moment are still offering services in other ways, such as through taking orders for delivery by phone, Facebook or online. Again, if there’s a local business doing this that we’ve missed, let us know. And if you can make use of these local businesses, please do.

Though local restaurants and cafes are not currently open to sit in, many are offering delivery and takeaway. Many regular takeaways are continuing to trade as well. Again, we are sharing as many updates as we can, and encourage you to support these businesses as much as you are able.

Help for businesses

Many high-street businesses in Chester-le-Street have benefited from government grants made available to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and business rates are waived for the current year for all shops and hospitality businesses. Some businesses have been able to furlough staff, and have the government pay 80% of those employees’ salaries. These measures have been widely welcomed.

However, the longer the current situation continues, the harder the situation gets. Unless tenants and landlords reach an accommodation, rents still have to paid. There are plenty of local businesses – such as cafes and hairdressers – not currently generating any income. And it’s not clear whether support from the government will be enough, and continue for as long as it is needed.

We don’t have all the answers, but we are here if any local business needs a listening ear, or requires help identifying the support available to them.

The future

There’s no doubt that this is an immensely challenging time, of the kind that none of us have experienced before.

However, among all the difficulties, we’ve been struck by the strong sense of community and creativity that we see local people and businesses demonstrating. A desire to support and be there for each other. And local businesses remaining, in many cases, resolute and upbeat about the future, even as they face the uncertainty of not knowing when things will return to some kind of “normal”.

As you know, the Shop Chester-le-Street campaign is all about championing and supporting local businesses and the high street.

And we are convinced that local high streets will have an even more important role to play in the months to come, as the country starts to recover. We hope to still be around to play our part in helping that happen.

In the meantime, please stay safe, and keep supporting our local businesses as much as you can – in the current situation, every purchase, kind word or Facebook like can help make a positive difference 🌈

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