Reopenings bring calls to support businesses

July 02 2020
Reopenings bring calls to support businesses

TRADE is picking up in Wells now that shops have reopened, the market has returned and shoppers are beginning to venture out again.

From July 4, pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers will also be able to welcome customers, with the appropriate safety measures in place. 

The moves have brought calls for people to support businesses as they reopen their doors.

The Mayor of Wells, Councillor John Osman, said: “It is wonderful to see life slowly returning to the High Street. I hope that residents will shop local and support our local traders. However can I ask residents to obey social distancing and the new one-way system that exists in the High Street. As a country we have not beaten coronavirus yet. We must be vigilant.”

There was a similar message from Wells MP James Heappey.

Writing in this month’s Wells Voice, Mr Heappey says: “If we’re to save businesses from going under, we need to find the confidence to go out and support them.”

In his column he adds: “Go out, keep your distance, wash your hands, but shop. Thousands upon thousands of local jobs depend on you doing so.”

James Cumming of Fenny Castle Vineyard at Wells Market on June 24

James Cumming of Fenny Castle Vineyard at Wells Market on June 24

Traders report that customers are starting to return, though not yet in the same numbers as before.

Peter Culley, who runs the retro gift shop Britelly in Queen Street, said: “I’m back up and running again in the shop, as are a number of surrounding businesses – some of whom have been able to trade throughout.

“I’ve been reasonably fortunate in that my online business has been easily adapted to be able to provide local delivery during the lockdown.

“Whilst the number of people venturing out is still well below normal and there are a lot of cautious shoppers – particularly amongst the older generation – there are very few people who are simply browsing. Most people visiting are spending and there appear to be people who are visitors from further afield who are taking the opportunity to visit Wells for the first time, which can hopefully be good long term if they have a good experience.

“Free parking in Mendip car parks is also welcome.”

Fellow Queen Street trader Jeanne London of pre-loved fashion shop The Changing Room said: “I have been open for a week and to date Wells seems quiet. I’m trying to be optimistic but Covid-19 trading restraints are challenging.”

Sarah Orton and Steven Jones of Roly’s Fudge Pantry in Wells Market Place gave most of their stock away to local charities and the NHS when lockdown took effect, and temporarily renamed themselves ‘The Ministry of Fudge’ while they operated a mail order service.

“We are delighted to be open once again and have been bowled over by the patient lines of locals and day trippers keen to support us and other local businesses. Many Wellensians have said they are actively spending their money in small, local shops just to try to get the city back on its feet,” they said.

Robert Powell is past chairman of Wells Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and runs Basil Powell Shoes in Broad Street with his wife Sarah. He said: “We reopened on June 15 and we have been well supported by our loyal customers. We have changed the shop to make it safe with social distancing.

“We’re delighted to see Wells coming back to life and are anxious that people can come back in as safe an environment as possible.

“We look forward to July 4 when further businesses can reopen and people can further enjoy their visit to Wells.”

Flower seller Micky Boland back at Wells Market

Flower seller Micky Boland back at Wells Market

Mendip District Council is offering free parking at its pay and display car parks in Wells, Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury and Street until August 6. Charges were suspended on March 26.

Leader of Mendip District Council, Councillor Ros Wyke, said: “Those businesses who have made it through lockdown will require time to recover. Our retailers need the footfall more than ever. This move shows our commitment to supporting the recovery of the local economy.”

With the reopening of markets in Mendip – Wells Market resumed on June 10, with social distancing measures in place – the district council has also suspended rent for two months, allowing stallholders to trade for free in June and July. The decision will be reviewed on a month-by-month basis, for up to six months.

Councillor Nick Cottle, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhood Services, said: “Mendip Markets have a key role to play in the regeneration of our towns and city after a long period of instability.

“A rent cut offer of two months seemed an entirely appropriate gesture to help our traders as they manage their return to the marketplace.”

Market Place and Lower High Street in Wells – from Oxfam to The City Arms – have become pedestrian only areas and are closed until further notice to all traffic except for essential access, to help with social distancing for pedestrians and to discourage vehicles entering the city centre.

There is a new one-way system for pedestrians in High Street

There is a new one-way system for pedestrians in High Street