Are Lancashire shoppers set for a Christmas splurge?
Three quarters of people who took part in our Big Conversation poll, say Christmas will provide a post-pandemic chance to support our local businesses.
Despite worry over a second wave of Covid-19 bearing down on Lancashire and concern about the impact on the high street, 74 per cent of those surveyed said they expect a bumper holiday season, while almost one in three said they expect to splash out more on their loved ones.
It comes as a quarter admitted they have abandoned the city centre since lockdown and have yet to visit a single shop there.
The findings, which suggest life has not gone back to normal for most of us yet, were revealed after hundreds of Post readers took part in our recent Big Conversation poll and had their say on the pandemic, its effects, and their hopes – and fears – for the future.
The results also showed that people feel more comfortable visiting family, going to sports and exercise classes, and heading to the beach or park than seeing a live show, gig, or film, volunteering for a charity, or eating out;
Three-quarters don’t think the Government’s ‘rule of six’ – which bans social gatherings of groups of more than six people – will be effective
And almost four in five are concerned about the impact of a second wave of the virus as cases across the county soar.
Karen Davie, from Bamber Bridge, owns Karen’s Collectibles at Preston’s outdoor market, and said: “I am coming into town much less than before because I am fearful of the virus. I don’t go out to cafes or restaurants where spaces are enclosed because I have a family member who has a heart condition and I struggle with asthma myself.
“I do think there will be a second wave, which makes me fearful for myself and my business. In the first wave, we had to close my stall down for three months. Being self-employed, when we closed the money stopped to absolutely nothing.
"Independent business owners have been hit more than anyone else. I think all of us up here in the north are forgotten about when it comes to the Government and the way it has handled the virus.”
Retired Thomas Moss, from Gammull Lane, Ribbleton, said he and his wife Margaret “don’t come out as much now”.
He said: “You could come to town now and there is nothing on and the streets are dead. There is just no point. It has changed so much because a lot of people just don’t feel like coming out.
“The rule of six is not working at all from what I have seen. Where we live, we see large groups of young people coming out of the pubs when they start to close, buying alcohol from shops, and congregating in big groups. It defeats the whole point.”
Margaret added: “I do still go out to cafes and to the pub on a weekend but with them shutting so much earlier I don’t really think it’s worth it. You can’t dance, have fun, or join in things like karaoke. There is no atmosphere so I think people are just going out an hour earlier instead.”
Mum-of-three Joanna Dearden, who was out with her mother Ingrid, said: “The virus hasn’t really affected my shopping habits; I just wish other people would take into consideration they have to stay two metres apart. I always feel like I am the one who is wary of space and has to move away from others in shops.”
Ingrid, a shop assistant, added: “When we first walked into small cafes with the restrictions it felt dystopian but, with the safety precautions in place, I am starting to act normal again now.”
Kathleen Tierney, of Wildman Street, Preston, works night shifts as a care assistant. She said: “Surprisingly, I am definitely coming into town more when I have finished work and carrying on with my life, but I have noticed town is so much quieter.
“As long as you wear a mask and follow the precautions people will be safe. A lot of people don’t even wear masks and they are not bothered about following the guidelines.
“I think there might be another wave coming because the cases are increasing. A lot is happening at the minute and I think there will be another lockdown if things don’t change.”
Mark Whittle from the city centre’s Business Improvement District (BID), said the area “belongs to all of us” and urged people to “continue to visit” and support local businesses “safely”.
He said: “With additional restrictions in place here, there has been a reduction in visitor numbers, which has been the case up and down the country.
“Towns and cities, like Preston, are also feeling the impact of many thousands of people still working from home. Safety is of course the number one priority, but city centre businesses are well aware of their obligations to ensure their premises are Covid-secure.”
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