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Shop Local: Second lockdown came at ‘worst possible time’ for Barking shops

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 November 2020

Vicarage Field shopping centre on Station Parade, Barking. Picture: Ken Mears

Vicarage Field shopping centre on Station Parade, Barking. Picture: Ken Mears

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A shopping centre director says the second lockdown came at “the worst possible time” for retailers.

Vicarage Field centre director Simon Green. Picture: Ken MearsVicarage Field centre director Simon Green. Picture: Ken Mears

Even in normal times, the traditionally busy November and December are vital to the survival of many retailers, especially independent shops.

Vicarage Field centre director Simon Green said: “A retailer can normally expect to take north of 20 per cent of their annual sales in these two months – but it’s often more.

“We know a lot of small retailers use sales and profits generated in these two months to see them through the majority of next year, or certainly the tough times at the start of the year.

“It’s going to be very difficult come the turn of the year.”

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He added the current landlord of the Barking shopping centre was “very supportive”.

However, in a year of unprecedented challenges for retail, shutting their doors for another four weeks was another blow for non-essential shops.

Visitor numbers had gradually picked up since the last lockdown, although the centre was still “a little over 20pc down, year-on-year” in October.

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“We were showing week on week improvements in footfall,” Mr Green said.

“It wasn’t back to like for like, but it was getting there. I certainly feel there was, amongst the general public, a hesitation and a wish to avoid crowded places and we know from centrally published data that people certainly weren’t using public transport.”

He added: “Of course, the big danger for high street retailers is online shopping is habit-forming.

“It’s something we’ve got to be very wary of moving forward because it’s not a level playing field.”

Mr Green urged people support local businesses this Christmas, whether by visiting shops when they reopen next month or seeking out those offering online click and collect or delivery services during lockdown.

“It’s about supporting local businesses, the local economy and local jobs,” he said.

“Effectively, we’ve got a lot of small businesses, so it’s about local people supporting their neighbours.”

Essential shops at Vicarage Field remain open and some non-essential stores are offering a click and collect service.

For updates, visit facebook.com/vicaragefield or follow
@Vicarage_Field on Twitter.


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