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Lockdown Limits Guildford’s Indie Shop-owners But Chain Retailers Keep Trading

Published on: 15 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 15 Nov, 2020

By Hugh Coakley

Confusion reigns in some quarters over shop lockdown rules in Guildford. Ryman and WH Smith remain fully open but independent fellow stationers Biddles is limited to a click-and-collect service.

Ryman said they were providing an essential service by acting as a DHL and Western Union agents.

But Biddles co-owner David Goddard, said: “It seems unfair Ryman can justify the whole store being open when the essential part of what they are offering is such a small part of their business.”

Stationers Ryman in the upper High Street said they are trading normally as they are agents for Western Union and for DHL parcel deliveries.

On the High Street, a Guildford resident told a The Dragon: “Is this the spirit of Covid lockdown or is it encouraging people into town to shop?”

The BBC has questioned whether big retailers are exploiting the lockdown rules. A trader complained to the BBC saying that the big shops were: “mopping up all the Christmas trade.”

Biddles are open for click and collect but said that it was “unfair” competitors, Ryman, should be allowed to open normally.

Other shops, including WH Smith and Marks and Spencer were selling essential and non-essential items.

The government guidance states: “A business selling a significant amount of essential retail may also continue to sell goods typically sold at non-essential retail.” But there is no definition of “a significant amount”.

The guidance encourages businesses to close non-essential retail where practical to reduce chances of pandemic spread.

WH Smith continues to trade normally as it is a newsagent and has a post office on the first floor.

On Friday, Guildford’s WH Smith customers were browsing and buying Christmas wrapping-paper, cards and stationery on the ground floor and books on the post-office first floor. Next door, Waterstones, the bookseller, was closed except for click-and-collect sales.

A WH Smith spokesperson said: “In line with government guidance, which allows newsagents to remain open, we have kept the majority of our High Street stores open throughout this period of lockdown, including more than 200 post-offices.

“We have invested in all our stores to ensure they are Covid-secure for both our colleagues and our customers, and we are extremely grateful to all our colleagues who continue to do an outstanding job.”

Marks and Spencer, with entrances in the High Street and North Street, had closed off the top floor but otherwise was trading normally. A staff member said because the ground floor gave access to the food hall, they could continue to sell all products.

Those included Christmas decorations and cards, men’s and women’s clothes, perfumes, shoes and handbags.

The town is noticeably busier than in the first lockdown. A trader in the North Street market said: “Business has been good. People aren’t taking any notice of this lockdown other than most of the shops are closed.”

The borough council’s Environment lead, Cllr James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough), said: “To date, we have ensured all rules are being followed through a combination of telephone calls, e-mails and visits to their premises.

“The action required varies depending on the nature of the business activity, for example some businesses remain open as normal, others have to close and others can operate a click-and-collect service.

“We have been working closely with our colleagues at Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards and Surrey Police, who also have powers to close businesses under the latest Coronavirus regulations.”

Ryman’s statement from the Guildford branch in the Upper High Street (November 12).

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