Business leaders call for shoppers to support local as lockdown eases
- Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN
Business leaders have called on shoppers from across Suffolk to support the local economy after "the most difficult year in anyone's memory".
On Monday non-essential retailers, hair and nail salons will reopen, while pubs and restaurants will be able to begin serving customers outside after four months of lockdown.
Only a quarter of the usual amount of shoppers have visited Ipswich town centre while under lockdown, footfall figures show.
Terry Hunt, chairman of Ipswich Vision, said: "This is a really crucial period for so many businesses, including retail, and the hospitality sector, which have had the most difficult year in anyone's memory.
"I'm afraid it goes without saying that if we don't support them, then many of them won't be here in in six months or a year's time.
"I can understand some level of nervousness among some people but I know businesses will do everything according to the rules to make sure that their customers are as safe as possible.
"And I really hope that the local community can rally around and give them the support they so desperately deserve and need."
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Andy Walker, head of policy and public affairs at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "It’s great news that we can continue to unlock the economy through stage two of the UK roadmap.
"Businesses have suffered a prolonged downturn of economic activity but now is the time for businesses to reopen their doors and build both confidence and cash flow.
"With the vaccine rollout ongoing, and with the right precautions, we hope footfall in traditional stores will increase and that consumers will have the confidence to buy offline to supplement the boom in online shopping we have seen over the last 14 months.
"It’s critical that consumers feel confident enough to support our traditional bricks and mortar businesses.”
A study from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies found that for every £1 spent at a local business 63p ends up back in the local economy compared to only 5p spent at a larger retailer.
Mark Cordell, the chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds business improvement district, added: "It's been a very difficult last 12 months, in particular for the last three for our town centre and our businesses, but there's now light at the end of the tunnel.
"We all hope that the great support usually provided by our local community will return, as the town centre is an integral part of what the town has to offer."