One of the most remarkable things about the Covid-19 crisis is the way communities in Chelmsford have pulled together.
People have stepped up and supported their neighbours, the vulnerable and the NHS.
As we enter a new phase of this pandemic – let’s dare to call it post-lockdown (touch wood) – we mustn’t lose that sense of community spirit.
Yes, we may be weary, we may be yearning for a relaxing holiday in the sun, but the fight isn’t over yet – not by a long shot.
Along with stamping out the virus, we need to get our stalled economy moving again.
To do this, we need to redirect all the positive energy we’ve seen over the past few months towards helping our local economy.
High street blues
Even before Covid-19 the UK’s 7,000 high streets were suffering. High rents and competition from online retailers and out-of-town megastores meant many shops and pubs were closing their doors.
At the start of 2020, there were 50,000 fewer high street shops than there were a decade ago.
As retail guru, Mary Portas put it: “We’ve sacrificed community for convenience.”
Well now is the time to start to fix that by supporting family-run and independent businesses in Chelmsford.
Don’t forget service providers
While local shops, bars and pubs are a vital part of the community, the local economy is much broader than that. Think about the solicitors, physiotherapists, beauty therapists and independent estate agents who also contribute to the local economy and employ people.
We need your support too.
It’s your call
Recovery and regeneration won’t happen by itself. Do you want our shopping areas to be vibrant and welcoming? Or riddled with yobs and boarded up shops?
If we want our local businesses to thrive, we must all start using them more.
Here are three simple ways we can help our local economy
– Pause before you jump online. Often our initial reaction, when we need something, is to turn to Google or ask Alexa. But what if your first reaction was to think locally? Before you make that online order, why not take a walk up to the shops and see if you can purchase it then and there. No waiting.
– If a local shop, tradesperson, or service provider impresses you, shout about it. Tell your friends and neighbours and mention it on Facebook or digital community platforms such as Nextdoor. Word of mouth recommendations are incredibly powerful.
– Contact your council. If your high street, shopping area or town centre feels down at heel, get writing. Ask your local councillors what they’re doing to help the local area. Point out that in some places, such as Rotherham in Yorkshire and Deptford in London, work has been taking place for years to encourage regeneration. If your council isn’t being proactive, speak up and put positive pressure on them.
Remember, miracles don’t happen overnight. Change takes time and requires commitment.
The next few months will be challenging for us all.
But it’s worth remembering the words of Manchester United’s young star and social justice campaigner Marcus Rashford when he said: “Look at what we can do when we come together.”
At Martin & Co we’re proud to be part of the Chelmsford community and supporters of local businesses.