Ottery brothers applaud customers on 'Freedom Day'

Brothers Chris and Jeff Abbott have praised customers for continuing to wear face coverings

Brothers Chris and Jeff Abbott have praised customers for continuing to wear face coverings - Credit: Abbotts DIY

‘Thank you’. That was the message from Ottery-based business Abbotts DIY to their customers after a week of trading following so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, July 19. 

All legal Covid restrictions have now been removed, including the wearing of face coverings, but Abbotts, along with many other local businesses, have asked customers to continue using them.

Chris Abbott, 42, who runs the local family business in the centre of town with his brother Jeff Abbott, 38, said: “On the Monday morning, we really didn’t know what to expect but one customer after another and another were all wearing face coverings. We were delighted to see this, as people don’t have to do this, but they are deciding to follow our wishes and to help keep their fellow citizens safe.”

Jeff and Chris Abbott outside their shop in Ottery

Jeff and Chris Abbott outside their shop in Ottery - Credit: Abbott's DIY

Jeff said: “When the government announced that face coverings would no longer be needed in shops we had a lot of feedback from customers saying that they were nervous and not happy with this decision. Quite a few said that they would be going back to self imposed quarantine as they were uncomfortable being in settings with no restrictions.

“But throughout this entire time our customers have been ‘exceptional’ with their understanding, patience and following the Covid-secure setups we have put in place.” Jeff added. 
“We also had to reduce our business hours for a large part of last year as two staff members were classed as vulnerable, and we certainly didn’t want them to be with us during the height of the crisis. So we kept them off work and beyond when the government said it was ok to return.”

Both brothers, who have lived in Ottery all their lives, emphasised their commitment to keeping their staff and family safe. Chris said: “We have a huge obligation for the health and safety of our workforce. As we are a family business, the people who work for us are an extension of our family, and we certainly do not want to risk any of them getting ill. Throughout this pandemic we have always put the health of our workforce and customers above any business need, we would rather have closed the door than put anyone at risk!”

“This is just the next step of managing the risk”, Chris added. “Clearly infections are going to rocket now, and we don’t want to put any of our staff or customers at any unnecessary risk hence we have kept all of our Covid measures, including face coverings, in place. To quote Professor Chris Whitty, ‘just because you can drive at 70mph down an icy road, it doesn’t mean you should’. 

Chris and Jeff Abbott inside their shop in Ottery

Chris and Jeff Abbott inside their shop in Ottery - Credit: Abbott's DIY

“The Prime Minister made it very clear in his announcement on July 12 that the pandemic is still with us. While most legal restrictions will be removed, he also emphasised that the responsibility sits with all of us to do our best to keep everyone as safe as possible. With cases of Covid-19 increasing at this time throughout the local area, we had to make some tough decisions that we felt were right for everyone. So this means that we are stepping away from restrictions cautiously. We are also very much aware of those customers who are exempt from wearing face coverings, and we are still happy for customers who, due to medical reasons, can’t wear one to continue shopping in our store.”

The Abbott brothers said: “On Monday we put out on our Facebook page a heartfelt thank you, to everyone and the response from this post has been extremely positive.
“From a local business point of view, you will find that most businesses in the town are still having masks or other covid secure measures in place, making Ottery a safe place to shop, eat and enjoy.
“The next few months will be a big challenge. But our customers and the people of Ottery have been truly fantastic throughout this crisis and as a community they have really pulled together, which as a local lad has made me proud to be a part of this great local community.”

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