The alarm clock didn’t need to chime loudly at 5am on Monday 15 June 2020; I’d already been awake for some time with a myriad of thoughts rushing through my head about the crucial day and week ahead.
Had we done enough to be ready? How many people will turn up? Will we cope with the queues? Is there enough or too much guidance? These were just some of the burning questions zipping around about the big day ahead, but I have to say, overall, I did have a feeling of relief and anticipation that, at last, we were about to start a new phase of breathing some more life back into Bristol Shopping Quarter.
I know it is just another step on a very long and important journey and there are still plenty of businesses out there who have to wait a bit longer for their time to come. And I also know, even for some of those who are opening, there are still big questions around their viability and how it will all work out with looking after their staff and providing their customers with the best experience possible in a new and different way. What I can say to our retailers is, as a BID team, we will continue to do all that we can to help and support you through these challenges and opportunities.
So back to the Monday, as I hot footed it towards Broadmead that morning, I reflected not only on the terrible human tragedy of the virus but also on the huge impact it has had on many businesses within Broadmead. I do believe, as a BID team, we have tried our very best to be there and to be helpful right from the start of this crisis by ensuring everyone was signposted to the government financial support schemes on job retention, grants, business rate holidays and bounce back loans. Of course, as is often the case, sometimes these schemes don’t always reach everyone, and I know there are stories of real hardship as some businesses miss out and be assured, we continue to lobby the government to look at broadening their support.
Throughout lockdown, as well as helping with the promotion of essential retailers and banks with publicising opening hours and product offers while also securing free parking in The Galleries for their teams (a big thank you to David Wait), we have also been supporting our closed retailers, not only with driving their online sales and finding new ways to take money but also with security checks and informing key holders of issues through Jack, our Retail Support Ranger.
Interestingly, our newsletters and emails to our levy payers and our 12,500+ customer subscribers over this lockdown period have never been so well read with many of you commenting on how informative and useful they have been.
If, like me, you had never heard of Zoom before this March, we certainly all know about it now, and our series of webinars helping retailers with operational insights on trading and understanding government guidelines to safely reopen were well attended. They also helped us shape some of the support we have since provided on queue management signage and printing the COVID-19 secure posters.
One thing this crisis has taught me, apart from how precious life is, is how vital it is to work together during times of adversity. I have been so impressed with how our retailers, Bristol City Council, the Police, and many of our city partners have united and responded to so many challenges and I have no doubt this will pay dividends as we move forward together as a team in taking the next steps in our recovery planning.
I also know we are not out of the woods yet in Bristol Shopping Quarter, and there may well be some difficulties ahead, but let’s continue with the spirit of togetherness and resilience we have shown so far and now look forward to early July when more businesses can hopefully open their doors again and make things look and feel a whole lot better.
Read Steve’s January blog HERE.