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June 2020

Shutdown Towns – how was Saturday trading in Abergavenny?

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On my local high street this weekend, 30% of the businesses stayed closed despite the lifting of retail lockdown.

All non-essential retail shops have been able to reopen this week in Wales, provided they follow Government guidelines to make them “Covid-secure”. These include clothes and shoe shops, book shops, electronics retailers, and shops selling toys. The hospitality industry, unfortunately, remains shutdown by the restrictions.

During the lockdown, I have observed the business activity in the normally thriving Abergavenny town centre, as it gradually begins to reopen. Essential businesses have been open for some time, and a handful of restaurants and bars have adjusted to by offering takeaway services – this has allowed them to reopen much sooner than would have been otherwise possible.

With today being the first Saturday since retail restrictions have been lifted, a quick survey of Abergavenny’s main high street shows that some 65% of businesses were open. The town centre felt busy and quite vibrant, and it was great to be a local shopper once again. There were quite a lot of people on street queuing, and this probably made the centre feel artificially busier than it actually was.

However, a third of businesses that could have opened decided to keep their shutters down. It’s clear that charity shops are finding it challenging as none of the shops on the high street were open – maybe because of their reliance on volunteer and often older-aged and more vulnerable staff. The other noticeable closures included travel agents and probably more surprisingly the branded coffee chains.

Even though there seems to be an equal mix of independent and branded businesses closed, it was worrying to see so many of the town’s distinctive independents not back in business. Let’s hope none of these has become a longer-term casualty of lockdown – this is something to keep an eye on over the coming weeks.

How many businesses have reopened in your town?


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