Those were the words of Helen Marshall, vice chairman and CEO of Chichester BID, after non-essential businesses reopened in the city centre yesterday (Monday, April 12).
Chichester city centre comes back to life as businesses reopen - in picturesMs Marshall said 'consistent and sustained' footfall in the city centre will be 'life blood of our local businesses'.
"Witnessing the opening up of Chichester city centre once more, post the extended lockdown period, has been amazing," she said. "Here at Chichester BID, we are asking that you shop local and support our resilient and innovative traders, they deserve our patronage now more than ever to be able to thrive beyond what has been the most challenging time in retail in recent history."
Julia Grant, owner of furniture store Winter's Moon in North Street, said she was 'hugely relieved' to be able to open again, adding: "We are grateful for all the support we have received during the past few months, from our customers, fellow businesses, our lovely landlord and the economic development team at the council.
"It really made us feel like we weren’t alone and that the business would make it through.
"It has been really notable that so many of the chains have closed whilst the independents have determinedly made it through.
"These early days of opening again have made us see how much everyone has missed the high street and all it offers, and that you can’t take it for granted.
"We think there is much to feel hopeful for - many of the local businesses are really devoted to this beautiful city and this will be the foundation for the city to now evolve and thrive, with their customers’ support."
Kain Lawrence, general manager at Q Hair and Beauty in North Street, said reopening has been 'hugely exciting' and 'we are so pleased to have finally made it'.
He added: "The high street was absolutely buzzing, and it was an amazing sight, supporting local has definitely stuck with the general public, to the point where people come to us to purchase now rather than online to support a local business.
"The future is going to be difficult for every business on the high street, but I have no doubt we will all work hard to evolve and create an environment that will not only last but prosper in the new normal of 2021 and beyond."
The owner of South Street gift shop Present Surprise, Dave Hockridge said there was a 'real buzz around town' with people 'enjoying the freedom of going to their favourite local stores'.
"It was wonderful to be reopen again and to see lots of customers that have become friends over the years," he said. "We had a strong opening day compared to a normal Monday and hopefully this will continue throughout the coming weeks and months.
"Health of course is far more important than money so if we need to go back into a lockdown although it wouldn’t be ideal financially we would fully understand it. So it’s down to each and every one of us to try and avoid that situation.
"We really believe that now people have had the chance to see how expensive online shopping can be, we constantly check our prices online to guarantee that we are cheaper, and the wait for the items to arrive that they realise it’s the local high street where the future of shopping really should be.
"We are of course excited to be back and for people to see our newly decorated store, new floor, new cabinets and of course all of our new lines of gifts, many exclusive to us in Chichester and over 150 different brands of greeting cards, it’s no surprise that people say we are the best card shop in town."
Daniel Elsom, who owns independent clothing and homeware store Rosie Rose, said he was 'delighted by the confidence levels' among customers to visit their local shops after the 'incredible' vaccine roll-out.
He said: "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 to 18 months.”
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