Chesterfield’s retailers are proving resilient in the face of adversity. While the Covid-19 pandemic has led to many retailers in Chesterfield town centre closing their doors, many remain operational, taking orders by phone, retailing online and offering free delivery to customers.
Some food retailers remain open in the town, including Ibbotsons fruit and veg stall which has been a fixture on the market since 1945. “We have had a lot of lovely feedback and comments of gratitude that we are still working and providing such high quality, fresh produce,” said Nick Ibbotson.
“We have reduced hours as the footfall in the town centre dramatically decreases in the afternoon. Everyone seems to come out in the morning. We have slightly reduced the items offered, selling a little less exotic produce as we do not have the passing trade.”
And while there is no chance of passing trade as people only venture out for essential shopping, Nick says: “There is a pleasant feel as everyone is very patient and friendly.”
Despite current trading conditions, Chesterfield town centre’s independent retailers which are currently closed, are optimistic about their future with some even welcoming the lockdown.
Laura Jo Owen, owner of Adorn Jewellers in Chesterfield Shambles, explained: “We see lockdown as a warning or the ‘ghost of Christmas on high streets yet to come’. With empty highstreets during lockdown people have had a real chance to see what may happen if they choose not to shop on their local high street.
“With many people relying on local businesses through the lockdown period our feedback has been that people are immensely grateful they still have local shops. Rather than a threat to the high street we see lockdown as an opportunity for people to continue shopping locally and to ensure that Chesterfield maintains its excellent mix of independent and multiple retailers.”
Lisa Swift, owner of Shop Indie based in Chesterfield’s Vicar Lane Shopping Centre, echoed this, saying: “We believe that after the lockdown has ended and people are allowed to move freely that they will have a much better appreciation of local businesses they have been reliant on during lockdown. We are hopeful that they will continue to Shop Local once the restrictions are lifted and this may lead to a rejuvenation of the high street.”
The subsequent appreciation of the high street means that many businesses do not feel the need to offer discounts and reopening offers to entice shoppers back after lockdown. Rather they see themselves offering added value services, such as continuing to provide their products and services remotely in addition to their stores being physically open.
Albert Naso, owner of Geeks Headquarters explained: “Post lockdown I believe that there will still be a significant portion of the population that will still be unable to leave their homes. These people need to feel valued and connected so we will continue to offer delivery and shipping of items to their homes.”
Small businesses in particularly have been able to adapt quickly to the lockdown. The fact that Chesterfield’s town centre is characterised by a number of independent retailers enabled them to be agile in the response to the lockdown.
Many communicated with customers directly via social media and made use of organisations like Destination Chesterfield to promote themselves and raise awareness of how they are continuing to operate.
Supporting the retail community, the town’s marketing campaign Destination Chesterfield launched a new microsite during lockdown specifically designed to help Chesterfield’s independent retailers continue to operate and supply their services and products.
The website – www.chesterfield.co.uk/supportinglocal has details of nearly 100 shops, food and drink businesses, training, support and service providers in and around Chesterfield that are continuing to operate by adapting their services to meet the needs of the community.
Dom Stevens, Destination Chesterfield Manager commented: “The mission for Destination Chesterfield has always been to encourage as many people as possible to support the town and celebrate its achievements.
“We’re encouraging everyone to #LoveChesterfield and continue supporting small independent businesses and service providers throughout lockdown. Every trader and service producer plays an important part in the local economy and we all need to work together to can ensure their survival beyond these extremely challenging times.”
Social media and websites have been a powerful tools for businesses to remain connected with customers during lockdown and generating footfall into their stores once they re-open.
Geeks Headquarters has taken its micro-community of gamers online, enabling them to continue enjoying their favourite tabletop games and tournaments as well as keeping each other company.
Laura Jo added: “In the same way as other successful businesses we have kept our conversation with our lovely customers during the lockdown period. Our ‘Friday Night Live’ on Facebook has given our customers the opportunity to win gift cards for our shops which they will be able to come and spend when the restrictions are eased.”
Lisa added: “As a smaller independent business, our bricks and mortar shop may be closed but we are still trading online and have also introduced a local delivery service via our website. Being able to adapt to meet social distancing requirements means that we can continue trading.”
Despite the challenging circumstances that the national high street finds itself operating under right now, Alberto, Laura Jo and Lisa are all optimistic about the future of Chesterfield’s high street, with Shop Indie even looking to expand the business post lockdown. They are also unanimous in their praise of the support they have received from Chesterfield Borough Council and central Government.
“The help provided by the government means that we can look forwards to being able to reopen our shop in Chesterfield in the coming months. Small businesses have been afforded a high level of support during this crisis and are arguably much better placed than larger chains.” explained Lisa.
Alberto added: “Chesterfield Borough Council is working with small, large, new or established businesses to keep the town alive. Everyone is doing all they can to help each other to keep our shopping as local as possible. This is the key to see Chesterfield and possibly the whole country rise again.”
Councillor Kate Sarvent, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for town centres and visitor economy, said: “We are aware that many local businesses and retailers in Chesterfield town centre will have been affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Rebuilding the local economy following the pandemic is a priority for Chesterfield Borough Council and we have therefore implemented a number of financial and support measures to help our local businesses in these challenging times.
“We will continue to support our local businesses and retailers as much as we can to ensure the long-term viability of the town centre as a place to visit, shop and socialise.”
Laura Jo added: “Fortunately Chesterfield has the ‘golden triangle’ of a successful market, independent shops and multiple retailers. We personally believe that it will be a slow and steady return to spending after lockdown ends as we begin to discover our new normal.”
To find out more about the new ‘Supporting Local’ site, please visit: www.chesterfield.co.uk/supportinglocal.