Business under threat from rules

A Tadcaster businesswoman has criticised the government’s latest COVID19 restrictions on wedding numbers, claiming they could put hundreds of small companies and specialist venues out of business.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 2:12 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 10:12 am

Liz Devine-Wright, owner of the Simply Devine Hatshop has seen sales plummet this year due to the restrictions on wedding numbers and cancelled race meetings.

“While I understand there is a need to protect people from the virus, virtually shutting down the wedding industry could kill off some of those specialist providers for good,” she said.

“So many couples have postponed their weddings until next year, but if we are going to be restricted for another six months, many businesses are not going to survive.

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“And you have to feel sorry for the couples – many of whom have been planning their weddings for a couple of years.

“The wedding industry is a huge business – from specialist clothing suppliers to wedding planners, photographers, car hire, florists, stationery providers, venues and small independent specialist shops such as ourselves.

“Having just 15 people at weddings for the next six months means couples will not bother with all the trimmings – they will have a minimal service and then have a party next year, meaning wedding businesses will probably miss out altogether.

“Simply Devine has been in business for almost 17 years, providing a service both to our shop customers, but also as a wholesaler supplying hats and fascinators to other boutiques.”

Simply Devine is a supporter of local businesses and was ranked in top 100 in the UK.

Liz added: “We have put special measures in place – as have all the local businesses – with masks and hand sanitisers available.

“As a small hat destination shop, we have also implemented advance booking appointments for customers – but there is little point in all of these measures for us if special events are cancelled.

“We’ve had very few customers in the shop and most of our wholesale customers have cancelled their hat orders – even though they had already been made and we had them in stock.

“The High Street was already suffering due to high business rates and online shopping, so small businesses such as ours and independent special occasion shops have had a double whammy in 2020.

“I am no financial expert, and I am not being political, but there must be a better way to deal with this, or the high street will disappear altogether.”

Wetherby Business Association said it had seen a mixed response from its members.

“Some traders have returned to pre lockdown levels,” said secretary Nick Dyson.

“The pedestrianisation of The Shambles has been a success.

“Other trades, such as those involving close personal contact, have been hard hit. Also travel agents have really suffered.”

He added that queuing and other precautions to access shops and businesses has impacted turnover and led to frustrating delays for customers but there were positives.

“The removal of the temporary barriers was a good move,” added Nick. “It helped to restore some degree of normality.

“Overall Wetherby has fared better than most areas of Leeds thanks to the determination and ingenuity of local business proprietors and help from its town and ward councillors, who have really tried to keep the town on its feet.

“It’s remarkable that the town centre remains vibrant due to the loyalty and support of the inhabitants of the Wetherby area.”