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‘It’s hit and miss’ - Town businesses finding their feet a month after shops reopened

PUBLISHED: 12:11 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:14 20 July 2020

Owner of Tudor’s tea room, Colin Johnson believes that people are “lacking confidence”. Picture: Aaron McMillan

Owner of Tudor’s tea room, Colin Johnson believes that people are “lacking confidence”. Picture: Aaron McMillan

Archant

A month since lockdown restrictions were eased, the floor of Fakenham’s high street is covered with stickers reminding people to stick to the one-way system across the town.

Social distancing guidelines as part of North Norfolk's 'Here to Help' Campaign. Picture: Aaron McMillanSocial distancing guidelines as part of North Norfolk's 'Here to Help' Campaign. Picture: Aaron McMillan

It’s the kind of measure we’ve seen taken in towns up and down the country, and an indication of how much has changed in the last six months.

One change is the closure of Norwich Street, which many see as a main artery to the town centre.

Its closure has divided opinion.

Andre Baker, who owns Splitz, a clothing store on the street, believes it has been beneficial to business.

Owner of Splitz, Andre Baker, believes the closure of Norwich Street has been beneficial to business. Picture: Aaron McMillanOwner of Splitz, Andre Baker, believes the closure of Norwich Street has been beneficial to business. Picture: Aaron McMillan

“I think it is a brilliant idea. I can’t see why it can’t be closed all the time,” she said.

“I’m probably against the majority but I quite like it closed because when people, especially holidaymakers, get to town they find a car park space then get to stroll around the town.

“People can walk down the road knowing they are safe, and then you spend longer looking into the windows.”

Mrs Baker said that the first two weeks of business “were really busy”, with regular customers coming back to the shop to browse and chat with the business owner.

As part of North Norfolk's 'Here to Help' Campaign, Norwich Street in Fakenham has been closed. Picture: Aaron McMillanAs part of North Norfolk's 'Here to Help' Campaign, Norwich Street in Fakenham has been closed. Picture: Aaron McMillan

Since then, she said business has slowed down but an increase of holidaymakers is helping the business.

Just down the road is Tudor’s tea room, run by Colin Johnson.

The cafe has been running as a takeaway during the lockdown, opening its doors on July 4.

It changed its layout to support social distancing, but Mr Johnson believes that people are “lacking confidence” about coming out.

The Tudor Tea Room, on Norwich Street in Fakenham. Picture: Aaron McMillanThe Tudor Tea Room, on Norwich Street in Fakenham. Picture: Aaron McMillan

“The whole town seems deserted, people are out but not the usual amount,” he said.

“People seem to still be frightened. We have had regulars come in for a cup of coffee and then go away.

“We just hope people get their confidence back.”

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This has led to a dramatic drop in trade. Mr Johnson said the cafe would take more in one summer’s day last year than in a week since it reopened.

“We are worried about how long we could have lasted. Without the government’s money, we would have gone bust,” he said.

“This should be the best time of the year but it’s not.”

Across the market square is Sew Sweets, run by Fay Dewing, who took over the shop in February this year.

Fakenham town centre becomes quite in the afternoon according to business owners. Picture: Aaron McMillanFakenham town centre becomes quite in the afternoon according to business owners. Picture: Aaron McMillan

Formerly Sweets N’ Things, Mrs Dewing runs the sweet shop as well as making alterations on school uniforms and the town’s info hub.

She said it has been “nice to catch up with regulars” since reopening, and that the majority of trade is done before the afternoon, while the banks are still open.

“It’s hit and miss some days. You get a steady flow but when the banks close, no one is about,” she said.

“You can understand why people want to come out when everything is open.”

Owner of Special Moments, Nigel Maidstone said that after a busy first week, things calm down. Picture: Aaron McMillanOwner of Special Moments, Nigel Maidstone said that after a busy first week, things calm down. Picture: Aaron McMillan

This has meant that she is closing early some days, focusing on the clothing side of her business.

The shop, which is limited now to one household at a time, is still getting used to the changes, she said.

“You just have to get used to cleaning and the rules and regulations,” she said.

“We can’t do fittings for people, we don’t let them into the info hub. If uniforms are tried on they are put away and then steam cleaned.”

Owner of Special Moments, Nigel Maidstone, reopened in June and echoed what Mrs Dewing said about the quiet afternoons, but he believes that Fakenham “has always been quiet after lunch.”

He added that he is still getting people saying a visit to the shop is their first time out of the house.

After a busy first week, things have slowed down for the shop, but are now picking up again, according to Mr Maidstone.

He said: “People are regaining confidence as people are still frightened.”

He is now thinking of what to buy into the shop to help his trade, including a collection of face masks that he thinks will do well.

Have you felt confident heading back out into Fakenham? Email aaron.mcmillan@archant.co.uk


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