'Shop local' plea from Lancaster and Morecambe business heads as district prepares for reopening of shops and pubs
Shoppers are being urged to support their local shops and businesses when the Covid roadmap restrictions relax further from next week.
Monday April 12 sees lockdown rules changed to allow all non-essential retail and businesses to reopen.
Pubs and restaurants can also reopen if serving food or drink outdoors, with customers required to order from their table and remain seated.
Other rule changes include hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons to resume business among the personal care sector, as well as indoor leisure activities, including gyms, to reopen for individual or household group use.
And as the light at the end of the tunnel finally begins to shine brighter, Lancaster and Morecambe businesses are looking forward to welcoming people back into the city.
However, while it is great to see the familiar high street names, independent businesses are vital to city centres, as they provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and jobs for communities.
Independent businesses also keep money close to home, and often support neighbourhoods and communities.
In Lancaster city centre 62 per cent of the businesses are independent and this is what makes Lancaster such a unique place to shop, visit and explore.
And with the arrival of spring, there are signs of strong optimism from businesses around Lancaster, with changes including Journey Social Kitchen opening its doors in New Street, Fabrix relocating to New Street and, to complete a resurgence in New Street, Ethel and Em has also announced plans to relocate to the street.
Elsewhere in the city centre, Expressions of Lancaster are expanding and are preparing their new shop in Sir Simon’s Arcade, while development of the old BHS Store is also progressing at speed with Loungers confirmed as the first tenant and reported interest from other national chains.
Finally, Northern Irish brand Bob & Berts have just unveiled their new venture with work well under way in the old Monsoon shop in Penny Street. This will be the chain's first store in England, showing a real vote of confidence in Lancaster.
Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID) is also working with landlords to display Love Local, Love Lancaster promotions in the windows of some of the premises which are currently vacant.
Nick Wilkinson, chair of Lancaster BID and a Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce director, said: "I can say for certain that all retail and hospitality are looking forward to Monday and the reopening of our city centre’s retail and hospitality – admittedly, outdoor only – but it’s a step forward.
"Both have received a massive battering over the last 12 months.
"The lockdown has further moved retail ‘online’ but it has also shown us the importance of the high street for the sense of community, vibrancy and creativity it brings.
"It has also opened the way for better interconnectedness between our local high streets and the internet.
"We’ve seen many examples of this in Lancaster city centre, ranging from traditional bricks and mortar retailers creating equally impressive online shop fronts (Rene’s of Lancaster is a great example) or our adored local restaurants offering amazing food at home.
"Given what’s been going on change on the high street is inevitable and this is clearly seen in Lancaster.
"There are lots of positive developments on the go with local companies expanding and opening new venues and we have lots of interest from the larger nationals which are looking to take some of the bigger units in Lancaster city centre."
Morecambe BID manager John O'Neill said: "Morecambe BID welcomes the reopening of local businesses after a very tumultuous year. We certainly hope never to see anything like this again as it has certainly taken a heavy toll on the economy, however I think the people of the district deserve special mention as throughout we have soon good adherence to the guidance and an infection rate generally lower than many other places in Lancashire, and nationally."
"We are hoping for a great summer for local businesses and visitors. Morecambe has a special place in many peoples' hearts and our natural offers are up there with the best.
"It's the simple pleasures we offer, and a unique combination of natural and man made, that makes us stand out. Morecambe will come out of this stronger and with a bright future".
Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry has stressed that now, more than ever, small independent firms nationwide need our support in person or by buying online.
He said: “High streets and town centres have seen huge changes over the past 12 months. Small businesses have been at the forefront of this.
“But small firms are resilient. Many have been able to react and adapt quickly to our ‘new normal’.
“Some have taken their business online, or developed their website offering, while others have created new products or spent time working with their local community.
“On top of trying to keep their business afloat, they have had to work tirelessly to adapt to ever changing government advice.
“While it’s important to highlight just how tough the past year has been for small firms, we should look toward coming months, when independent businesses that have fought hard to make it through this pandemic will hopefully see the beginnings of recovery."
Mr Cherry advised: “As we work through the road map toward reopening, small firms will need to be ready to stay nimble and make the most of the opportunity.
“As customers are allowed back into businesses that have locked down, they have a choice. In the early stages of the unlock process, as the rules allowed two people to meet outdoors, we have seen people choose small local businesses for their coffee takeaways.
“Money spent at a local small business stays in the local area, helping support that business, its staff and local community.
“So we encourage people to think small and back their local retailers in these critical coming weeks.
“Of course, for those who feel comfortable to, this could mean going to their local stores in person when restrictions are lifted.
“It could also mean visiting their website and social media or giving them a call to see how you can back them.”
Meanwhile, from April 12, hospitality with outdoor seating can also open once more, and several of Lancaster's popular venues will be opening their doors.
The following businesses will all be offering services, but we suggest you check individual Facebook and web pages for booking, opening times and what is being offered etc.
*The Sun Hotel & Bar
*The Pendle Witch
*The Royal Hotel & Bar
*The Study Room
*The Water Witch
*The White Cross Pub
*Royal Kings Arms Hotel
*The Cornerhouse Lancaster
Tim Tomlinson, chair of Lancaster Pubwatch and owner of several of the above establishments, said: “As we are sure we all recognise, for everyone working in and using the hospitality sector it will all be a bit new and strange once again, so we politely request you bear with us as we get to grips with these new ways of working.
“The pubs and bars are obliged to make sure both we and our customers follow the various rules and regulations set by the government, police and local council. Please respect them and the staff who will be doing their best in what will initially be tricky new circumstances and then we can all enjoy the pubs, bars, and restaurants as they open over the coming months."