PEOPLE who are well enough have been urged to keep using local businesses to support the New Forest economy during the coronavirus outbreak.
Companies have been reacting to the sudden fall in customers as the public was urged by the Prime Minister to stay at home to limit the spread of the disease.
The New Forest Business Partnership, linking the district council with local traders, appealed to residents on Twitter: “Please continue to support New Forest businesses at this difficult time.
“Most are open – so if you are healthy, go shopping in local shops, eat and drink in local businesses and keep the New Forest economy going.”
Eateries may benefit from the government’s intention to relax planning rules “as soon as possible” to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways without having to make a change-of-use application to NFDC.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “These changes will provide vital flexibility to pubs and restaurants and will ensure people are able to safely stay at home while still supporting some of the great local businesses across this country.”
Maria Currie, director Everton Nurseries Garden Centre, said that while the nursery was busy, its Camellias restaurant was nearly empty. It is now offering a takeaway service of chilled meals for pick-up or, if necessary, delivery for those unable to leave their homes due to the coronavirus.
She said: “It’s a concern for all of us. We’re going to keep open until we are told not to. We have removed tables and we are on a skeleton staff.
“In the short term we are doing everything we can to stay open. We’re going to try to keep our core staff.”
At the family-run Roots and Fruits greengrocers in the Angel Courtyard, Lymington, a spokesperson said their usual box deliveries between New Milton and Hythe had grown from about 150 a week to nearly 180 and was expected to go above 200.
The store, run by couple Stewart Doling and Tracy Scares, had seen more customers spending more money, as people stock up and try alternatives to the busy supermarkets.
At fashion store Elliotts of Lymington, which employs about a dozen people, director Neil Welker said it was continuing its delivery service to let isolated customers in the SO41 postcode try on garments at home.
He said: “As with most retail businesses it’s very difficult. Footfall is down and it’s not easy. But we are very grateful for our good, local customer base, and there are still people out and about on the high street. We have still got people coming in – we have just got to get through it.
“As things stand at the moment, until we are advised otherwise, we will remain open.”
He welcomed the chancellor’s £330bn support package announced on Tuesday but said cuts to National Insurance and VAT payments might be needed later.
Nicola Leyland Jones, of Lanes Restaurant in Lymington, said it was also offering takeaways but pointed out the eatery had well-spaced tables and hand-washing facilities.
She said: “We need to stay positive and keep operational and business as usual.”
Oli Rickman, who runs Westbeams Professional Tree Care in Brockenhurst, has offered to help pick up essentials for people unable to leave their homes.
He said: “During these tough testing times we would like to offer our full support to the local community while we can to people within the Brockenhurst area who are elderly, isolated or unable to leave their homes.”