Worthing town centre traders preparing for ‘new normal’ as shops set to reopen

Traders across the country are preparing to reopen their stores after the Government announced the latest steps in easing lockdown measures.

From Monday (June 1), open markets and car showrooms can open to the public and from June 15 all non-essential stores can follow suit.

Worthing’s town centre manager Sharon Clarke welcomed the news but warned businesses would face fresh challenges upon reopening.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

“Traders are very relieved that it looks as if it’s being lifted and they can start to get back to some sense of normality,” said Sharon, who is a director of business group Worthing Town Centre Initiative.

Montague Street is deserted SUS-200324-123628001

“It’s a new normal, but it’s a positive step. It will be challenging for some because they have got to put in place protective measures that comply with risk assessments that all will be required to undertake.

“That’s extra cost in a time when they have already been stretched and have cash flow challenges.”

Similar to scenes already familiar at supermarkets, shops will reopen with protective measures such as limited customer numbers, protective shields and protective equipment for employees. Sharon said the changes could be daunting for some, particularly sole traders required to fill in risk assessments and put measures in place for the first time.

“There may be some people that don’t get it right the first time, but please bear with them – they are doing their best and will get it right,” she said.

Local authorities have been given a share of a £50million Government fund to help high streets reopen safely.

Worthing Borough Council has been granted £98,168 while Adur will receive £56,721 to go towards developing an action plan and disseminating public safety information.

Councils are also expected to use the funds to support businesses as they put measures in place and to make temporary changes to make public spaces more safe.

Sharon said the Town Centre Initiative had written to the council asking for some of the funding to go towards two hours of free parking in the town centre for visitors.

While the group was fully behind encouraging more walking and cycling, she said, for some people that is not possible.

But with the public advised to avoid public transport, Sharon said it was vital people were still able to come into town and support their local traders.

“Worthing was doing really well before the lockdown, with hardly any vacant buildings,” she said.

“There were some real positives and we need to keep that going. Businesses do feel like they have had support, with no business rates, small business grants and so on, but now they need the public to support them.”

A survey of traders carried out by the Town Centre Initiative found that only three per cent of town centre traders said they were unable to reopen next month.

Sadly the Wednesday market in Montague Street will not be returning next week as its narrow location would make it impossible to safely distance.

Familiar stalls such as the vegetable stand and flower stand are planning to return, Sharon added.