While many hotels and restaurants are holding their breaths awaiting re-opening next month, Wear Business Leaders have said they can take heart from other companies already bouncing back.

Non-essential shops and retailers have re-opened this month, albeit in far from normal circumstances, and are already beginning to revive their balance sheets.

Samantha Czwordon-Auld, planning and marketing officer at The Bridges, Liza Johnson, project manager at Discovering Durham CIC and owner of Tea Enthusiasts and Helenlee Whalley, a style coach who runs Style Code, shared their insights with Wear Business co-editor Colin Young in our weekly online business leaders’ webchat.

And the clear message was: “There is business life after lockdown!”

Samantha Czwordon-Auld said: “We held over 85 national retailers and have a centre of around 16m footfall per year and are a busy centre day-to-day employing between 1,500 and 2,000 staff the majority of which had to be furloughed.

“Only essential retail stayed open after the lockdown – around just 10 per cent of our retailers – so bringing the rest back this month has been a big challenge.

“In terms of re-opening non-essential retail we are absolutely delighted with how it has gone down but that is down to a massive amount of planning because we were thinking about that right from the start.

“We’ve not been through anything like this before but in a way that was a great challenge because it was unique.

“Right now we’re trading at around 70 per cent, with footfall around 50 per cent of what it normally is, which is quite understandable.“

Over in Durham, there was a similar relief to be back in business.l.

Liza Johnson said: “It has been a really positive experience, re-opening.

“The day before we re-opened, the stockists came in the day before and that was a really joyful day just being able to see people and reconnect and see the shelves filling up.

“Structurally, the shops have changed to improve safety with two-metre sticks, screens and so on and the shop we had from Prince Bishop shopping centre was phenomenal.

“Having customers back through the door was wonderful.

“We are all about local shopping on a daily basis and we made sure our food offering was really fantastic but of course what we are missing is the tourists and students and at the moment it has been mainly food.

“Footfall was significantly down – maybe on a par with a typical February – but the people who did come out were coming out to spend.

“This is an unprecedented time though and we are all trying to raise our game.”

From the viewpoint of someone who is constantly shopping for herself or clients, Helenlee Whalley says some of the high street’s issues on re-opening may have been over-exaggerated.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised, as a customer, about how promising the re-opened shops are,” she said. “You can still have a positive, feel-good experience.

“There were a lot of concerns about there being too much queuing but I think that’s been overplayed by the media, who might show super-long queues but those queues might be a one-off or only there for an hour.

“Generally speaking it has been very pleasant.”

Now she is hoping to get her style business back on track both in terms of face-to-face and online appointments.

The full video can be viewed here: www.facebook.com/107197710774169/videos/299097457892469/?v=299097457892469



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