Our towns and villages in East Devon are blessed with butchers, bakers and… well, perhaps not candlestick makers, but greengrocers, fishmongers and traditional sweet shops to name a few.
We all want it to stay that way. As a Sidmouth resident, I’m fully aware of concerns locally regarding a couple of recent closures in the town.
It’s a similar picture in Budleigh and Exmouth, despite new businesses taking up vacant shops in recent months. I recognise we must do more than want shops to stay open.
The steps taken by government have helped many businesses keep the open sign hanging on the door.
Many businesses received a £10,000 grant alongside a year-long business rates holiday, secured Bounce Back Loans and used the furlough scheme to keep staff on the books despite little or no trade. Hotels, pubs, restaurants and visitor attractions have a much-needed reduced 5% VAT rate until March next year to help with costs and drive bookings.
If we want our high streets to thrive, we must all help them survive where we can. Over recent months, shops in East Devon have worked tirelessly to put measures in place to keep customers and staff as safe as possible.
Before you go online or step into your supermarket, please consider visiting the local independent shop. I recognise modern life is busy and times are tough and so do many of these local businesses who now also deliver. Wandering along our high streets is a pleasure, and so too is ordering from these businesses with the click of a mouse or through your smartphone.
I plan to use social media to highlight a business of the week to promote local traders because I’m keen to do everything I can to help. I’d urge any struggling businesses to contact me and I’ll continue to raise their concerns with government.
I was heartened to see the way local shops stepped up and supported many during the lockdown who were unable to go to the supermarket and couldn’t secure a delivery slot. They were there for us, let’s be there for them.
This column appeared in the Exmouth Journal on 28th October 2020 and the Sidmouth Herald on 29th October 2020.