Sidmouth shopkeepers glad to be open again, but ‘need the visitor trade back’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:14 22 June 2020

Carl East, manager of Winstone's independent bookshop. Picture: Maria McCarthy

Carl East, manager of Winstone's independent bookshop. Picture: Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Many of Sidmouth’s independent traders have reopened this week, with precautions against Covid-19 in place.

Customers outside Taste icecream and coffee shop. Picture: Maria McCarthyCustomers outside Taste icecream and coffee shop. Picture: Maria McCarthy

On Tuesday, June 16, the town centre was quieter than before lockdown, although there were small queues outside some shops as numbers inside were limited, to maintain social distancing.

The manager of Winstone’s bookshop, Carl East, said customers had been delighted to see it open again.

He said: “I was in the shop at the end of last week, moving my stock around, taking units out, and you hear all the comments as people walk past.

“I heard so many people say, ‘oh, fantastic, they’re open next week’, and that really lifted my spirits.

“Monday was a nice busy day, a couple of times when we were getting a bit fuller we had to ask people to wait to come in, but everybody was happy to do that, and kind and polite to each other.”

He said shoppers are being asked to sanitise their hands before coming in and he is doing the same after every transaction.

Cashless sales are being encouraged, but he is still accepting book tokens, and cash from children wanting to spend their pocket money.

He said: “The worry that a lot of the traders have got is, to make our businesses successful we rely on visitors to Sidmouth, we rely on the tourists.

“But, for the safety of the town, is that helpful to us? So, the two things are slightly fighting each other.”

The card shop Paper Moon has also reopened, with owner Kristina Narmontaite saying: “It’s actually been all right, it’s ticking over nicely.

“People are saying it’s not busy in the town, but it’s going to take time, especially in the first week.”

Richard Cross, owner of Sidmouth Outdoor Company, said: “We’ve had two very good days’ trade.

“We’ve been here a long time and have a lot of repeat customers, and a lot of people have been waiting for us to open.

“But this is just initial. The reality is that until the hotels and restaurants open and visitors start to come, it’s not going to be funny.

“I just wonder how it’s going to work for chocolate shops, gift shops and so on.”

● Sidmouth Housewares is offering a 10 per cent discount to NHS workers, the emergency services and the military. If any other traders are doing the same, feel free to let us know at the Herald.

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