Shop local this Christmas and help businesses survive

Brian Fennelly
Brian Fennelly, Woodley Town Centre Manager, is encouraging residents to support local businesses. Picture: Phil Creighton

“USE IT or lose it,” is the warning being issued to residents as the borough’s shops reopen after lockdown.

Colin George, from Wokingham Business Association (WBA), is urging residents to pop down to the shops and support Wokingham’s local economy as it falls under Tier 2 restrictions.

Since Wednesday, Wokingham borough has been following a new set of ‘high alert’ coronavirus rules.

While many hospitality venues remain closed, shops have reopened with social distancing and the rule of six in full force.

Now, Mr George is urging residents to head out and shop local to help businesses survive the second wave.

According to WBA, the coronavirus pandemic has “decimated” profits and left the borough’s companies hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

“Local businesses are currently on life support,” Mr George explained.

“They’ve used all their savings to keep going through furlough, but they still have bills to pay.

“It’s only going to take the slightest little thing to push some businesses over the edge.”

He is now urging people to visit Wokingham town centre and invest in local retailers.

“Wokingham is lovely and it has some very good shops,” he said.

“The shopkeepers care about their customers, they’re friendly, and they need your help.”

Mr George’s plea is echoed by Brian Fennelly, Woodley Town Centre Manager, who says the impact of the virus has been “drastic” but is positive that businesses will make a comeback.

“We were very pleased with how things bounced back in Woodley,” Mr Fennelly said.

“Our markets came back stronger than ever, and shops were holding up pretty well.”

According to Mr Fennelly, the people of Woodley have been supportive throughout lockdown, investing in independent retailers and shopping responsibly.

“They’ve done everything they can to help the market traders and retailers in the town,” he said.

“We’re happy to now be taking a little bit of a step in the right direction, heading into Tier 2, and we hope that all of our shops have a very successful Christmas.”

But some people are wary about heading out to the shops after lockdown – however Mr George and Mr Fennelly both say there’s no need to worry.

“Every business has put Covid-secure precautions in place,” Mr George said.

“And the shops aren’t like big supermarkets where there are hundreds of people milling about – the stores are small and local.”

Mr Fennelly added: “In Woodley, we’ve got a wide open town centre, people can move around quite freely, and it’s relatively easy to maintain social distancing.”

According to WBA, if customers don’t come out and support local businesses, Wokingham borough risks losing some of its independent stores.

“It’ll be such a shame to lose any more than we already have. Shop local, so we don’t lose it,” Mr George pleads.

And it’s not only residents who are being asked to support the local economy.

The Bounce Back Better campaign is also calling on the government to help Berkshire’s hospitality industry.

Reading UK, Reading Central BID and Abbey Quarter Commercial District have all backed the campaign, asking the government for a £15,000 grant to help local retail and leisure businesses which cannot open under Tier 2 restrictions.

To find out more about the Bounce Back Better campaign, visit: raisethebarcampaign.com

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