Town centre ‘back in business’ as shoppers urged to back retail revival

Shoppers are being urged to show their support for town centre traders when restrictions are relaxed on Monday, with non-essential retailers and outdoor hospitality venues in Northampton preparing to reopen their doors.

More than a year after the pandemic first hit, shops will be able to start trading once again while pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers sitting outside.

It feels so good to finally be back. After what has been an incredibly difficult year for all of us, we can’t wait to get that buzz back, hear the tills ringing and see people supporting our traders. BID Operations Manager Mark Mullen

With shoppers eager to make the most of their new-found freedom, Northampton town centre is expected to be busy, and extra measures have been taken to encourage social distancing and keep everyone safe.

Mark Mullen, Operations Manager for Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) – the organisation working on behalf of businesses to enhance and promote the town centre – said: “It feels so good to finally be back. After what has been an incredibly difficult year for all of us, we can’t wait to get that buzz back, hear the tills ringing and see people supporting our traders.

“Shops and businesses have been through the mill, so now is the time to show them a bit of love. Their first aim throughout the pandemic was to survive, we now want them to thrive.

“Whether it’s buying new clothes, toys for the kids or enjoying a pint and a bite to eat in a pub beer garden, we want to see everyone enjoying Northampton town centre. We’ve made every effort to ensure the town is clean, safe and secure and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone back.”

Businesses are confident customers will return to the town centre after more than a year of shopping online, with the prospect of browsing stores, trying on clothes and getting a feel for what they are buying a welcome relief from scrolling through endless websites and clicking social media links.

Andrew Cruden, of Market Square News, said: “The town centre has obviously been extremely quiet but there’s a real feeling of optimism around now. People are ready to get out and support those businesses who have been closed for so long.

“I think there will be a real revival in the retail sector. Online shopping has its place but there’s nothing quite like going out to the shops and chatting to people. I would say to everyone at home that we’re here, we’re ready, we’re safe and we need you now more than ever.”

The relaxed guidelines introduced as part of Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap will see the opening of non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; public buildings, including libraries and community centres and indoor leisure facilities such as gyms.

Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors at Step 2 and there will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew, although customers must order, eat and drink while seated. Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.

Terry Steers, of St Giles Ale House, said: “As a hospitality business, the past year has been a living nightmare but we’ve got through it. I’m looking forward to raising a glass with customers and toasting the fact that Northampton is back in business.”

Kerry Reynolds, Area Director at Metro Bank Northampton, said: “As an essential service, Metro Bank has remained open throughout the pandemic and we’ve continued to serve both our business and personal customers when they’ve needed us the most. The health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, customers and community remains our highest priority, and we’ve taken steps to implement social distancing to keep everyone safe.

“We are delighted that Northampton town centre will start to re-open on Monday and we want to see our local businesses thrive. We look forward to seeing our neighbours back open on Abington Street very soon.”