Fringe Box



‘It’s Dire’ Say Traders Hit By Coronavirus Crisis

Published on: 15 Mar, 2020
Updated on: 15 Mar, 2020

Guildford town centre looked busy today (Saturday, March 14) but traders were generally reporting that sales were right down. Most were blaming coronavirus for the drop in sales.

A nearly deserted Tunsgate in Guildford on Saturday, March 14, at 10am.

Earlier in the morning at around 10am, Guildford was deserted but shoppers came in later. The footfall was boosted by Harry Potter fans in full fantasy dress on a treasure hunt in the town centre.

One retailer said: “Its dire. This is worse than the credit crunch and all the other squeezes. The start to the year was good but now this has come.

“Normally there is a lift in February with new stock coming in. The worry is we don’t know when it will end but we are planning for a lengthy stop.”

Witches and wizards (with a bit of Terry Pratchett as well) came in to Guildford on a treasure hunt and boosted numbers in the town centre.

The manager of travel agents Trailfinders’, Toby Kelly, said that they were incredibly busy – but only to help people who are either abroad already and were trying to get back, or were due to travel.

He predicted that some businesses would not survive, saying: “New bookings are down. It’s the fastest moving situation that I have ever seen. February was a little bit down but the last fortnight, as countries closed their borders, cruise ship and tours closed and cancelled. Its unprecedented.

“People aren’t worried about the virus so much as the possible consequences of being quarantined. That’s what is so frustrating. They don’t want to be locked up in a hotel room.”

Shoppers came in later in the day and were buying said some shops.

However, Pete Cole, assistant manager at kitchenware shop Le Crueset, said that it was quiet but when people came in, they were buying. He said: “The storms were worse than the coronavirus. Our sales conversion rate is up so it’s not doom and gloom here.”

One shop-keeper, who didn’t want to be named, said: “It’s the quietest Saturday I’ve ever had and I can’t see it getting better in the short term. The weather doesn’t help.”

The shop-keeper was happy with the government cut to business rates, saying. “It’s less to shell out every month.

“But I worry about them closing all the shops like Italy. We will still have our bills to pay but no income. I can see shops going under.”

It was business as usual on North Street market.

Stallholders on the North Street market said that sales were more or less holding up, but they were in agreement with many traders that more could be done by the council to make the town centre more welcoming.

One said that the council was “very aggressive on parking. Why can’t they have one day a week when parking is just £1?”.

And staff in Liz Earle, the beauty products shop in the High Street, said that it was business as usual for them. “Nobody is cancelling beauty treatments,” they added.

One shopkeeper summed it up saying: “it’s a bit quiet now but it’s going to get a lot worse.” He added with a grin: “Boris is scared now. We should have checked people when they came but it’s too late now.”

Sainsbury’s had run out of toilet roll and paracetamol but ……

Flynn’s Butchers on Aldershot Road near Westborough was stocking them. “We first stocked them as a bit of a joke, but we’ve had quite a few pensioners coming in saying they are unable to get them without travelling on the buses. So we will continue stocking them for your convenience. Plus, Tom the butcher very much enjoys building his BogRoll Fortresses…”

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