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Local shoppers back Woodbridge businesses as the emerge from lockdown

News ArticleLocal shoppers back Woodbridge businesses as the emerge from lockdown

A Suffolk community has backed its high street – with almost 90% of shoppers pledging to shun big stores and spend their money locally from June 15th.

A survey of Woodbridge residents carried out by business and tourism association Choose Woodbridge, has revealed that 86.5% plan to shop closer to home when stores reopen following further relaxation of lockdown rules.

The primary reason given by those asked was that they were committed to boosting the local economy following the three-month lockdown – with 80% citing this as their main motivation.

A further 57% of shoppers said they would visit their local shops because it offered them a more enjoyable experience than shopping online while 34% said that they thought staying closer to home would be safer than navigating the crowds in supermarkets and the queues outside them.

James Lightfoot, chairman of Choose Woodbridge which launched its Stay Local Choose Woodbridge campaign last month to support local businesses, said: “The results of our research indicate that our wonderful independents are set to get a real boost to their businesses as they reopen thanks to the fierce sense of community spirit that exists in Woodbridge.”

The survey – carried out by 136 residents of the town – found that 98% would be devastated to see long-standing, family-run businesses and unique and independent retailers close as a result of the financial hardship imposed by the pandemic.

Kirsteen Torrance, who runs the award-winning Woodbridge Kitchen Company which reopened its doors to the public last week, said: “Lots of shops in and around Woodbridge have had to adapt significantly to survive through this period – including our store which moved online.

“We have seen a wedding dress maker start to make scrubs instead and shops which have been forced to close use their windows to display the work of struggling local artists.

“We have witnessed pubs offering takeaway pints and restaurants providing upmarket takeaways and local stores delivering essentials to residents too scared to leave their homes.

“We are confident that Woodbridge won’t just survive this crisis – but will thrive too. And that’s all thanks to the community that it sits within.”

The research revealed that while 64% increased their online shopping since March, 60% struggled to get food delivered, 49% struggled with availability of certain items they needed and 31% said online retailers had taken advantage of people with unfair price hikes.

Of those businesses which were forced to shut during lockdown, hairdressers were listed as the most missed, followed by garden centres, coffee shops, restaurants, and the pub.

Julie Murray, marketing director at Notcutts, which also opened its doors last week, said: “What’s been interesting for all shops starting to re-emerge from this period is how many new faces we are seeing.

“I think this is because people have been a little more nervous of the big wild world and have started to live their lives more locally.

“Many have been actively looking for ways to continue to keep themselves and their family as safe and healthy as possible and for many, this has meant staying closer to home, shopping locally, buying local produce.

“This won’t suddenly stop after lockdown so there is still the opportunity for small local stores to retain and grow the customer base that has already turned to them during this crisis.”

Shops reopening from June 15th will be adhering to the guidelines set out by the government.

James Lightfoot said: “Choose Woodbridge is working closely with all businesses and we know that every single one is working very hard to adhere to all the guidelines to keep shoppers safe while in town.

“We are confident that Woodbridge won’t just survive this crisis – but will thrive too. And that’s all thanks to the community that it sits within.”