It’s been over three weeks since non-essential shops were able to reopen and welcome back their customers after what has been the most challenging of times for our High Street, market and independent traders.
15 months ago, the coronavirus pandemic changed every aspect in the way we go about living our daily lives; words and expressions we rarely needed to use became part of our everyday vocabulary such as ‘furlough’, homeworking, Zoom, lockdown, hand sanitiser and even face masks.
Many of us have enjoyed discovering more about the area where we live, getting to know our neighbours and shopping more locally. And, as we look forward to the next step in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown planned for May 17th, the message is loud and clear: Stockport’s town centre is back open for business.
Retailers have been working hard to ensure their customers can shop with confidence; businesses have put measures in place to ensure the safety of their staff and outdoor bars, cafés, restaurants are bringing a new, vibrant atmosphere into Stockport. It’s so good to see people enjoying themselves. Stockport has the buzz back!
We caught up with a few of the businesses in the town centre to find out just how pleased they and their customers and staff are to be back in business.
New to Stockport is Tony Murray, owner of the Old Town General Store who had only just opened his doors when he was forced to close them again back in November last year:
“It’s absolutely brilliant to see people out and about again. I’d heard so many good things about Stockport that to launch my business here was a no-brainer; to say I was disappointed when I had to close is an absolute understatement – right place, wrong time.
“Luckily, I was still able to trade online although we’ve had to make a few adjustments like limiting the number of people in the shop at any one time, providing in-store hand-sanitising stations and providing face masks to anyone who forgets. It’s been easy really and everyone seems genuinely pleased to be back. It’s also great to be able to sit out and have a beer in the sun. I’d like to see more outdoor hospitality in Stockport, the Market Place and Underbanks are perfect for it.”
Stockport’s largest commercial landlord is also pleased to see businesses ‘get back to work’ and have even welcomed new tenants to the town as Leasing Director Rhys Owen explains:
“Back in March last year when everyone was in lockdown, our offices were temporarily deserted (save for a few who delivered essential services). But even in such extraordinary times, it was encouraging to see optimism. We have secured over 33,000 sqft in this time – that’s 25 new businesses into our offices in Stockport and many businesses are welcoming back their staff. Like others, we have introduced new ways – hand-sanitising areas in reception and on each floor and limited numbers within shared facilities. We have also advised our tenants in introducing new ways of working to keep their teams safe including office / desk layout, providing well ventilated rooms and encouraging social distancing.
“Infection rates have been falling and, although they are levelling out, it’s indicative of the way Stopfordians have stuck to the rules. While no one should be complacent, by adopting new measures we have been able to get our tenants back to work and back into Stockport.”
Author: Helen White