Chichester business owners speak as shoppers return

From today (Monday, April 12) non-essential shops and hospitality venues have been able to reopen and we spoke to some of the city's independent business owners about how the day has gone for them so far.

Landlord of the Chichester Inn in West Street, Nick Webb, said business has been good today and is expected to get busier as the week progresses.

He said: "It's been good long as we don't get more snow like this morning. A normal Monday is usually quieter than this so certainly later this afternoon and this evening we are going to be quite heavily booked I think.

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"Particularly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Tuesday or Wednesday there is still probably a space.

Café Paradiso manager Emma Matthew and owner Laura Hayler

"It's nice to see people back and they've got a bit of sunshine and they are happy."

But there is still plenty to look forward to too, Nick said, as restrictions ease and the pub can bring back its array of live music events in June.

Nick's son, Elliot, added: "It's been a nice busy start and we have had lots of bookings so as long as the weather holds up we are looking okay. It's lovely to have all the customers back at the Chichester Inn and we look forward to seeing everybody very soon."

Meg Windell, owner of florists Hedge Rose in The Hornet, said: "It's been very nice and there has been some very positive feedback. It's nice to see everybody really and to talk to people face-to-face.

Meg Windell, owner of Hedge Rose in The Hornet

"People are wanting to keep the high street and support the local independent shops. I think it is more important now to support everybody while we can really.

"We have been quite fortunate in that we have been doing quite a lot of online services for deliveries and we had Mother's Day and Valentines' Day and we have done a lot of telephone orders and things like that — but to see people face-to-face coming in and actually buying something off the shelf is a bit more exciting really."

Hedge Rose has hired new staff and is now looking at possibly taking on more with a busy summer of weddings ahead.

Meg added: "Touch wood, if everybody supports local i think it should be quite a good outcome really."

Dave Hockridge, owner of Present Surprise in South Street.

Dave Hockridge, owner of Present Surprise in South Street, said: "Its good to have the customers back. It's been a little bit slow to be honest but we think that people are still finding their feet and maybe thinking that its going to be really busy in town so 'I'm not going to come out' basically.

"We are hoping that Tuesday and Wednesday will pick-up. It has just gone midday but we have done okay and we have done a couple of decent sales which has helped us but there probably isn't as many people around as we thought there was.

"We've had the front of the shop all painted, we've had a brand new floor put in, we've had new lights put in the cabinets, there's new lighting in the top of the shop.

"The shop has all been decorated, we've got lots of new card companies in here and lots of new gift companies with plenty more still coming in in the next few days.

Elliot and Nick Webb at The Chichester Inn in West Street

"It's going to be totally fresh."

Café Paradiso manager Emma Matthews said a snowy start to the day could be to blame for a quieter-than-expected reopening.

She said: "It's been going okay. It's nice to be back it's nice to be open, it's nice to be back at work. It's a bit quiet but I think the snow this morning put people off a little bit maybe but hopefully we will be busier over this week.

"It has been lovely to see customers again and we have some really lovely regulars that have already been in. Some of the first customers through the door were our regulars and they said the missed us and said how happy they are that we are back open so that's good."

Daniel Elsom is the owner of Rosie Rose, independent fashion and homewares store on East Street.

He said: “Today is an important day for Chichester and its retail sector.

"With the incredible rate the vaccine has been rolled out, I am delighted by the confidence levels among our customers who are excited to be able to visit us in-store once again. The number of shops that haven’t reopened this time round is disappointing but it does create an exciting opportunity for independents to be bold and launch themselves here in the city centre.

"In turn, landlords need to be realistic with the rates they charge. Retailers and smaller businesses have been well supported by the Government and Local Council but it’s going to take some time for us to emerge from the impact of the past 12 months.

"I call on all city centre landlords to be reasonable and patient in order that Chichester city centre can have the chance to thrive once again over the next 12 - 18 months.”

• Anyone wishing to book at a table at the Chichester Inn can do so by calling 01243 783 185

• Find out more about Hedge Rose by visiting hedgerose.ukYou can visit the Present Surprise Facebook page here.

You can visit the Café Paradiso Instagram page here