How are our local businesses managing post lockdown? Living speaks to Peter Elsworth, Chairman, Berkhamsted Chamber of Commerce.
‘They are feeling bruised in many cases,’ he says. ‘It’s difficult to gauge what will happen because I’m waiting to see how many reopen on the high street. Zen hairdressing closed. Laura Ashley is going, but that’s nationwide. Clintons reopened and then shut. Carphone Warehouse is shut. If you walk down Lower Kings Road there are several empty premises.
‘What we have to do is increase the footfall in the town and then we need to try to attack costs for businesses. We will try to push for landlords to offer a discount if the businesses are pushed to the edge – some rent is better than no rent while you try to find new tenants.’
He also wants to encourage businesses to cross trade with each other.
By the time you read this, the multi-storey car park should be open, and plans should have moved on for the town centre to be pedestrianised on Saturdays. ‘If this happens, Lower Kings Road up to St Peter’s will be closed to traffic, as it is for the Festival of Lights. The market will move into the road, and there will be space for businesses to expand on to the pavement,’ explains Peter.
He adds that, with 320 spaces in the new car park, people will be able to get out of the car and walk up an esplanade of shops, which will be an attractive proposition.
Tring Together says: ‘Some businesses remained open during the whole period and continued to be busy like the Tyrechangers – a mobile tyre fitting service. Beechwood, the town’s deli, moved to a delivery service and changed the café area into food and grocery space to support locals’ shopping habits during lockdown. Many other businesses and retailers offered free local deliveries and our town really stepped up to the mark.
‘What would now help is if people continued to support these retailers and businesses by shopping locally. Tring Together holds a Shop Local Day each December and we will certainly be doing something in that vein again this year. Watch this space…
Over at Tring Brewery, a drive-through and delivery service has saved the day, says Jared Ward. ‘Our customers had the attitude that if they couldn’t go the pub, the pub could go to them!’ And the business has recently set up its website, so that orders can be taken online.
Meanwhile, at Tring’s Fancy That gift shop, which is also continuing its delivery service, social distancing has been maintained by an ingenious invention of owner Jon Edwards. A remote-control traffic light at the door lets customers know if there is room for them to come in. His wife and co-owner Sam Edwards says: ‘We are incredibly lucky being in a town like Tring, where there is a great feeling that people want us to do well and to survive.’
Advice for local businesses
Jonathan and Pippa at SR Consulting suggest three ways in which businesses can weather the Covid storm.
- Gain a deep understanding of your customers’ needs. Ensure you are offering the right products and services at the right time with an exceptional level of service and experience.
- Take a step back from your business and review it warts and all. Start thinking about what you were and are doing right. Can you provide your services in a different way? Can you improve delivery times, or prioritise the customers most in need?
- Pinpoint the core purpose of your business. A lot of businesses are thriving despite the major challenges presented. The common thread is their authentic commitment to a purpose that goes beyond profitability.