As the economy reboots our local businesses need us more than ever
Published on 14 July 2020. Column by Councillor Nick Gowrley.
Saturday 4th July saw "Super Saturday" - the day when shops, pubs, restaurants, and businesses across Suffolk reopened their doors for the first time in months. Following extensive guidance from government resulting in many days of risk assessments, I hope most businesses saw a successful first step into this new, post-lockdown world.
It's impossible to understate the incredible effort and determination shown by businesses to be ready for this moment. Each, in their own way, have gone the extra mile to ensure the safety of staff and customers. From screens at receptions, Personal Protective Equipment for staff, hand sanitiser, contactless payment, appointment systems, one-way systems, or limiting the number of customers inside a venue, businesses across Suffolk have responded well to these challenging days, I send them my thanks and genuine admiration.
I recently spoke to the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and asked them how they thought "Super Saturday" had gone.
While it is too soon to have definitive statistics, Richard Glinn, Growth Hub Manager, told me:
“Although not all businesses decided to open on Super Saturday, for those that did, there were positive signs that people were willing to visit hairdressers, restaurants and high streets, helping to kick-start the economy. The majority of businesses were well prepared and had the necessary safety precautions in place. The real positive of course, is that footfall was up a third on the same time last week and despite it being lower than usual for this time of year, the signs are that businesses, customers and supply-chains are beginning to adapt."
I have also heard from friends and residents who took the opportunity to visit Martlesham to shop on Saturday, who said how well organised everything was. Customers patiently waiting in line to enter shops, some wearing face coverings and all maintaining social distancing. Happy and well-informed staff assisting with everything from sanitising trolleys to counting customers in and out of stores. While we must accept it will take time for everyone to get used to this new reality, all of this is encouraging; the signs are there that Suffolk is already bouncing back from the dark days of lockdown.
The next few months are going to be crucial for our county. The Government, which has acted so quickly and decisively to protect jobs, is rightly shifting its support from furlough schemes to restart support, and policies to boost customer confidence and consumption. During his statement the Chancellor announced a number of measures including temporary cuts in VAT for the tourism and hospitality industry, bonuses for businesses who bring back furloughed staff and vouchers for discount meals in participating venues during August to name just three. What the Chancellor was saying is clear, we must all return to supporting our local economies and businesses, a sentiment I enthusiastically agree with.
Now is the time for all of us to show the same levels of confidence and adaptive spirit shown by business owners and managers. They need our support and our custom more than ever before, so I urge everyone to shop local, support local businesses and brands. I also remind everyone to “Stick With It Suffolk”. Please continue to follow the guidance around social distancing, hand washing, and isolating should you develop symptoms. The last thing we want is any chance of a second spike in infections and a return to lockdown.
By supporting local businesses, you are not just getting the benefit of some of the best products in the world, but you are also helping secure jobs, prosperity, and communities across Suffolk now and for the future.