BRIDGWATER’S hard-hit retailers are busy preparing as many shops will be allowed to re-open in less than a fortnight.

But while local business leaders are calling on residents to support our local economy, there is also caution for shoppers to be prepared for a ‘new normal’ when stores re-open their doors.

The government has said the majority of retail stores will be able to re-open from Monday, June 15, another major milestone in the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce general manager Roger Smith says Bridgwater has a fantastic range of independent smaller businesses and is urging residents ‘not to take them for granted’.

Mr Smith said: “The fantastic range of local independent retailers here in Bridgwater are the heartbeat of our community and have obviously been greatly affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic so the Government’s decision to allow non-essential retailers to re-open from June 15 is a very welcome boost to the local economy.

“With more than 300 retailers throughout the town, the vast majority of whom are not major national brands, re-opening for business will bring back a sense of “normality” and help us all to feel like we are heading in the right direction in the fight against the virus.

“But we should all be aware that whilst business owners are going to be looking forward to welcoming their customers back there are number of requirements they are still going to have to meet before we can all enjoy their products and services.”

Mr Smith said things will also be different for customers - not just the staff and shopkeepers.

“Things are likely to look a lot different in shops and stores with the addition of different equipment, notices and markings on the floor, so we will are not going to be able to just pop into our favourite shop in the way that we used to as we stick within the social distancing guidelines.

“However it is vitally important that we all support our local businesses now more than ever as they attempt to recover from an impact that no-one could have seen at the beginning of the year.

“Remember it’s also going to be very different for the staff working in the shops too so they will appreciate our patience and understanding too I’m sure.

“Statistics show that for every £1 spent in local independent businesses around 50p – 70p comes back into the local economy.

“We have a great breadth of retailers in the town and we cannot afford to take them for granted as they re-open for risk of losing them so we at ask everyone to make sure they support our retailers.”

Sedgemoor District Council had a meeting on Thursday, May 28, with representatives from its environmental health, property services, planning, communities and economic development teams.

A spokesman for SDC said: “They are working with businesses, town councils and other organisations to understand any concerns and requirements.

“They will be looking at temporary changes that might be made to the layouts and traffic routes in centres.

“In line with government advice, they are looking at ways to encourage easier ways of getting to the shops by walking and cycling and are keen to help retailers manage customer flow while sticking to the social distancing guidelines.

“Sedgemoor will be able to help businesses with signs for shop owners, information and guidance.

“If any business would like to add to suggestions being made or needs help and advice in preparing to re-open, they are invited to contact or ring 0300 303 7800.”

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