"Its essential that we all work together to make sure that we come out of this phase in the best possible position"
Clare Hayward, chair of the CW LEP
Hopes of a COVID-19 vaccine by next Spring could mean this is the first and last Christmas where festive cheer will mingle with face masks, social distancing and lockdown restrictions. But, leaders across the region are calling on communities to rally around and shop local to help traders emerge from lockdown in the best possible position.
The Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Marketing Cheshire and the local authorities in Warrington; Cheshire West and Chester; and Cheshire East; are all putting their weight behind plans to make sure the Christmas spirit will leave a positive legacy for local firms.
This latest drive to support the region’s economy is part of the wider Let’s Turn This Around initiative, which was set up by local councils and the LEP to urge residents and businesses to work together to keep the region open and ready for business.
This year, for instance, the much-loved Chester Christmas Market will be going digital, with a special spotlight on individual traders via Facebook, giving shoppers the chance to find out how to still be able to pick up their foodie treats and bespoke gifts for loved ones.
The Chester Business Improvement District (BID) has created the Chester Gift Card, bringing together more than 100 of the city’s shops, leisure suppliers, bars and restaurants. The card, which can purchased online and delivered directly to the recipient, is a pre-paid Mastercard that acts as a local currency for anything from a coffee to a night in a hotel, an experience or a shopping spree.
Family favourite Chester Zoo is also encouraging visitors to consider a membership or animal adoption as Christmas gift this year.
Carl Critchlow, Chester BID manager, said: “It is no surprise to anyone that our city centre is in peril. We’ve struggled through the first lockdown and, despite a decent summer, the Tier 3 restrictions in Liverpool combined with the Wales lockdown left our footfall and city businesses in dire straits.
“The national lockdown is necessary of course, and we fully support the move to stop the NHS becoming overwhelmed. However, it has come at a disastrous time – the time of year when our businesses usually reap the financial benefits of the start of the busy Christmas period.
“Anecdotally, I’ve heard people say: ‘I don’t want to buy my Christmas presents from Amazon, I want to support my high street’. Many aren’t sure how to ensure they are putting the money directly into the hands of the independent businesses they want to support. The Chester Gift Card offers a simple way to do just that.
“It also means if you don’t know what gift to buy, this gives the recipient options from across the city, from clothing to beauty services, afternoon teas to cocktails.”
The Chester Gift Card is available to purchase online and can be pre-loaded with anything from £5 to £500.
In addition, the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub is running a series of webinars to give businesses advice on how to access support and grant funding during this time.
Clare Hayward, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “We can all do our bit in supporting local businesses and there are lots of ways to help, including booking a gift ‘experience’ within the region or simply buying a gift voucher for a loved one’s favourite shop or restaurant. Now is the time when our local businesses need us most – our independent entrepreneurs are the people who help give our high streets real character and keep our towns thriving.
“We all know that the current lockdown – and the restrictions that preceded it – has created an extremely uncertain time for everyone, so it’s essential that we all work together to make sure that we come out of this phase in the best possible position.
“Christmas is, of course, going to be very different this year, but we need to back our local businesses and champion their offerings as much as we can. This could be either getting your Christmas food, tree or wreath delivery booked in with a local supplier; having a virtual browse at the Christmas Market; or even sharing a Google or Facebook review of your favourite restaurant takeaway service.
“For businesses in our region, it’s vital that we all do our bit to stick to the current restrictions, including adhering to social distancing when visiting those businesses that are currently open, so that we can emerge from lockdown in the lowest tier possible and have our high streets open in time for the festive period.”
To find out more about how to support local during lockdown, visit: www.visitcheshire.com
If you would like to get involved with Let’s Turn This Around and share your business’ best practice for keeping COVID-secure, or share which businesses stand out for you, visit: http://www.871candwep.co.uk/helping-business/lets-turn-this-around/