How businesses in one Norfolk town are coping during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 09:14 03 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:14 03 May 2020

Nick Lee, director of Broadland Travel. Pic: Archant library

Nick Lee, director of Broadland Travel. Pic: Archant library


Businesses have had to adjust to a world turned upside down during the coronavirus lockdown.

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in North Walsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYQuiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in North Walsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

We spoke to five in the market town of North Walsham to see how they are coping, in their own words.

John Caton, who owns Caton’s furniture shop in Market Street, said: “Obviously, we cannot trade until the government says we can. I’ve been in lockdown at home and been coming into the shop to make sure everything is okay, as you need to keep it and other people safe, We’ve got the government grant but it does not go far when you’ve got bills and overheads.

“We’re looking forward to phase two of the lockdown and what that will mean for businesses and when we can reopen.

“It’s been a tough time and I’ve had some sleepless nights worrying about it. We’ve been thinking of ways that social distancing can be done, which it can, and bringing in gloves, masks and hand sanitiser for customers out the front. We’re hoping that we will be able to bounce back when this is all over, and a bit of retail therapy will cheer everyone up.

Quiet streets due to the Coronavirus lockdown in North Walsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYQuiet streets due to the Coronavirus lockdown in North Walsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“We’ve had the gas mains roadworks outside the shop as well, so it’s been a double bubble, but the roadworks are nearly finished. Hopefully, phase two will bring some normality back to the town.”

David Gayfer, retail operative at Showcase Gallery newsagents and giftshop in the Market Place, said: “We’re doing fine. There are not so many people about, but we are doing twice the number of papers we did before, for home delivery.

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“We’re open from 5am to 11.30am from Monday to Sunday. There are a couple of other shops nearby that are open, the sweet shop and fruit and veg shop. But, obviously, we are looking forward to the lockdown being eased and getting back to normal.”

Paul Mace, manager at Papworth Farm butcher’s shop in the Market Place, said: “We have been very busy. We have not been shut at all during the lockdown. As a food business, we have been doing home deliveries. And in the shop, everyone is quite happy to stand two metres apart, for social distancing, and to have just one customer in at a time. But, obviously, everybody is hoping that we can get back to normal soon.”

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Nick Lee, director of Broadland Travel in Market Place, is also chairman of the town’s chamber for business. He said: “The shop’s shut at the moment. Over the last 24 hours I have been dealing with a lot of refunds for customers’ booked holidays.

“We are getting some new bookings. The number of enquiries in the travel sector overall has gone up by about a third in the last week. People are booking holidays for early winter, which means from October and November onwards. Some people are asking for earlier, but we are not recommending people travel earlier than September.”

Meanwhile, Natasha Williams, manager at Christopher’s Cafe and Bakery in Church Street, said: “We have had to adapt the business. The coffee shop was previously 90pc of the business. We have taken on more wholesale with the bakery side of it.

“We have changed the hours. We are open from 9am to 1pm every day except Sunday. And there are three of us now working here while, before, there were seven. The other four are either self-isolating or have been furloughed.

“We do deliveries in the morning. We take bread, cake and flour to people who cannot come out. We didn’t realise how much flour was in demand. You cannot get it for love nor money, but we have some.”

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