Shops opening welcome

Business leaders have said they are encouraged by the support local shops are receiving following relaxation of rules brought in to prevent spread of coronavirus.
Distance markers outside shops. Picture Richard Ponter.Distance markers outside shops. Picture Richard Ponter.
Distance markers outside shops. Picture Richard Ponter.

Non essential shops were given the go-ahead to open their doors to walk in customers on Monday June 15 and the response was welcomed.

Wetherby business Association President Paul Finder said: “It was a pleasure to see more people in Wetherby, supporting their local shops.

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“We know there will be distancing problems regarding queuing outside some buildings, but the shopkeepers have been very resourceful with the measures they have taken, to protect themselves and their customers.

“Floor stickers, with distancing information, have been ordered by the Business Association and will be available shortly from my office in Wetherby town centre, to help any retailers who require them.

Leeds City Council is happy with the measures taken for the Market Place, which will remain as it is.

“We sincerely hope that people continue to support the local economy by visiting our wonderful Wetherby shops.”

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Measures were put in place before the reopening, with an information tower in Wetherby Market Place and direction and queuing markers and barriers to help with two-metre social distancing and safety of pedestrians.

The British Retail Consortium advised shops to meet customers, explain the social distancing needs and control the number of customers entering the store at any time.

Mayor of Wetherby, Coun Neil O’Byrne, said there was a buzz in the town: “It is wonderful to see Wetherby making the most of the easing of lockdown as more shops re-open.

“There was a real ’can do’ attitude when lockdown started, with a number of shops and market stalls remaining open for business, adapted for safety; and other retailers finding innovative ways of operating including virtual tours of stock via WhatsApp so customers could choose and order.”

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Coun O’Byrne added that the queues that have faced shoppers in the town can be looked on in a positive light.

He added: “It is heartening to see many smiling faces as people venture out to support our local shops and traders, with the queues an opportunity to speak to folk we haven’t met before. There was a real buzz in the town on Monday. Long may it continue.”

Welcome to Wetherby, which was set up to promote the town to visitors and the region, was pleased to see the reopening of local shops around the town.

Spokesman Coun Connor Mulhall said: “We hope local people will be there to support their local businesses as they have suffered significant financial challenges in recent months.

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“At the start of next year, we are hoping to formally celebrate with a ‘Wetherby is back in business’ themed event and align this with the postponed VE75 celebrations.”

Local ward Councillors Norma Harrington and Linda Richards are urging residents to shop locally to help kick-start the local economy, and keep a diverse range of shops on the high street.

However, underpinning all the lessening of lockdown restrictions, are the government guidelines to ‘stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ which the councillors reiterate that everyone must adhere to.

Coun Norma Harrington (Conservative, Wetherby Ward), said: “Many of our local businesses have had to adapt to new ways of working over the last few months including doing deliveries, so it must be a long-awaited change to be able to welcome people back into their premises.

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“This is a new normal for us all, and while we’re not back to how it used to be, it is a start.

“So please be kind, and remember that we’re all learning our way through this.

“However, it still needs to be said that social distancing is still in effect, so please be safe if you do venture out to the shops. Stay alert, control the virus, save lives – we cannot afford a second wave to take hold.”

Coun Linda Richards (Conservative, Wetherby Ward), said urged shoppers to support Wetherby’s independent traders.

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“Please bear in mind that the large chains of shops may be able to sustain themselves through Covid, but it is the independent shops, of which we are lucky to have many in Wetherby, who may struggle,” said Coun Richards.

“Please think next time you need to make a purchase, and if you are able to do it while following the social distancing rules, use one of our local shops – they’ll be glad for the custom.”