Harrogate business took just £13.50 in one day as coronavirus fears take hold

An independent business in Harrogate took just £13.50 in one day this week, amid claims that coronavirus fears have already triggered a 30 per cent drop in high street footfall.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 12:18 pm

The Harrogate Tea Rooms in Westminster Arcade has reported a significant downturn in business over the last fortnight, tweeting that £13.50 "'is not enough for two hours of wages, let alone costs.'

Owner Carrie Wilkinson, said: “We changed our practices to include extra precautions to help allay concerns, including providing hand sanitisers and cleaning menus between customers.

"But The Arcade has currently almost no footfall. Figures from previous trading years show a marked downturn since the virus hit the UK. We would just like to reassure visitors and local customers that we are taking every precaution to make life as normal as possible and that particularly the small independents really need everyone’s support.

The Harrogate Tea Rooms in Westminster Arcade has reported a significant downturn in business over the last fortnight,tweeting that 13.50 "'is notenough for two hours of wages, let alone costs.'

"We all need to help each other through these difficult times. Businesses are on a knife edge; extra positivity and team spirit pulling everyone together, would be much appreciated."

Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce claims that high street footfall has already dropped by at least 30 per cent, and said independent businesses are suffering at what is already a challenging time for our high street, and feel ‘very concerned’ by the potential impact of the virus on the local economy.

Their president Steve Scarre invited businesses to voice their concerns at a chamber meeting on Monday night, and he has since told the Harrogate Advertiser that “the longer the risk continues, then the worse it will be for the town centre economy.”

He stressed that ‘urgent action’ is needed to help minimise the risk of infection for business employees and staff, and to show visitors that there is a desire to keep the town open for business as safely as possible.

Businesses anxiously contemplating the impact of coronavirus did however receive some encouraging news on Wednesday, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an unprecedented package of measures in the Budget worth £30 billion to support traders during the coronavirus outbreak.

These include the suspension of business rates for 12 months for shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues in England with a rateable value below £51,000, and a £3,000 cash grant for firms entitled to small business rates relief.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones has urged businesses to voice their concerns about the impact of coronavirus fears, amid the claims that high street footfall has already been damaged.

Mr Jones has invited businesses in the town to contact him directly so that he can take every question and problem directly to the Treasury. He said: “Coronavirus is affecting nearly all facets of our business life and the effect on our high streets now, and the potential effects as the situation progresses, is deeply concerning.

“The solution does not belong to any one sector alone - to get past the effects of this virus on our economy and our way of life we need to work as a team in a way we haven’t seen since the Second World War.

“People are spending less in our shops because they are following doctor’s orders - they are staying at home if they are poorly or at risk of infection. This is correct.

“This is temporary, but as yet we don’t know how temporary. Our key actions should be to support businesses to get across this temporary slump in demand. These measures are welcome and will make a real difference to businesses who are seeing trading conditions becoming more difficult.

"We may need to go further, and I want to hear from local businesses about how I, and the government can help. I will take every question and problem directly to the Treasury.”