Could longer opening hours help shops bounce back after Covid?

Woodbridge Thoroughfare during lockdown - town centres have been hit hard by the closure of non esse

Shops in Woodbridge are among those looking to change their opening hours to attract more customers - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Suffolk businesses are looking to change their opening hours to attract more customers when coronavirus restrictions ease in April. 

The government has brought in temporary measures which allow stores across the country to stay open until 10pm once non-essential retail is allowed to reopen on April 12.

It is hoped the move will not only allow traders recoup losses while they were closed during lockdown, but also make it easier for customers to shop in a Covid-secure way.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "Suffolk Chamber is clear that in order to enjoy a sustained economic recovery from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, local businesses will need as much support from as many sources as possible.

“The retail sector, which has been among the most adversely affected by the series of lockdowns and other restrictions, is looking to meet changing customer demands as flexibly as possible.

"Shifting the hours within which they trade is likely to be a common feature of this adaptation. As long as such shifts are within existing permissions, then we hope they will receive as much support as possible from customers, councils and neighbours.”

One town where a number of businesses are considering a change to their opening hours is Woodbridge, where traditionally shops remain closed on Sundays.

Sue and Nicky Risby’s shops. Picture:John Risby

Nicky Risby-Bowen, left, will be opening her shop on a Sunday for the first time - Credit: John Risby/ Choose Woodbridge

Nicky Risby-Bowen's shop, Attic and the Wardrobe, opened ten days before the first lockdown. 

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"Hopefully, everybody is wanting to come back," said Mrs Risby-Bowen. 

"We all just need it, financially, just to get back out there and do as much as we can and help people as well. 

"It's been a nightmare for me. I've only opened for four or five months."

She hopes customers will support any moves by stores to open for longer, saying: "There's so much Woodbridge can offer."

Clare Perkins, director of Choose Woodbridge, said: “By opening seven days a week, these stores are making up for being closed as well as offering more opportunity for customers to visit the town again.

"The move will also mitigate the risk of crowds on a Saturday, which we want to avoid in order to maintain social distancing.

“This is a very traditional town and for as long as I can remember, the majority of businesses have shut up shop on a Sunday.

"Some have been here for more than 50 years and never opened the doors to Sunday trading.”