Shop Local: Drop in footfall and Covid-19 restrictions hurting Heathway businesses

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 October 2020

Heathway Shopping Centre in Dagenham. Picture: Melissa Page

Heathway Shopping Centre in Dagenham. Picture: Melissa Page


Reduced footfall during the pandemic has been felt by all high street shops, from those selling essential items to businesses most affected by government restrictions.

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At Heathway in Dagenham, some businesses are surviving, if not thriving, and others might not recover.

Heathway Shopping Centre didn’t close during the lockdown because most of its shops sell essential goods, but there has about a 20 per cent reduction in people coming through the doors, according to manager Kerry Debenham.

Social distancing rules prevent the centre from hosting event days, which usually attract plenty of shoppers.

Halloween – “one of the busiest days other than Christmas” – would have offered a welcome boost to trade this weekend.

“We can’t do the things we’d normally do for the kids, like free painting, for Halloween,” Ms Debenham said.

“We usually get an extra 1,000 people on an event day.”

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Covid-19 regulations also mean a balance may have to be found between trade and safety.

“With the pandemic, shops have lost a lot of money, so we do need to get people through door. But we don’t want to get too many people either, because then it’d be overcrowded and we’d have to stop people coming in,” Ms Debenham said.

“At the moment it’s steady.”

Out in Heathway, cosy hairdressers The Stylist’s Room is only allowing two people in at a time and spacing out its appointments because of social distancing regulations.

Hairdresser Jonathan Carl said: “The first seven weeks (after lockdown) was busy, but it’s quietened down a bit now because people are scared to mix in with other people still and you’ve obviously got to keep your distance as well.”

But while salons can depend on a steady stream of customers, other businesses like cafes rely far more on trade from shoppers.

Some days, Star Café serves as few as “two or three” customers during the lunchtime period, which used to be busy.

“After lockdown, everything is dead,” Billal, who did not want his surname published, said.

“They’re scared to come out, to sit in the café. Too many people have lost a job, and too many people are ordering online food like JustEat, Uber.”

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