SCORES of New Forest firms will get back to business on Monday under stringent safety measures as part of the latest step of the easing of the lockdown.
It follows the government announcing shops in England selling non-essential goods will be able to reopen from 15th June, provided they follow government guidelines to keep staff and customers as safe as possible.
That includes high street retailers and department stores, such as book shops, electronics outlets, tailors, auction houses, photography studios, indoor markets and shops selling clothes, shoes and toys.
But for some it remains unclear whether they can reopen. A spokesman for New Forest Wildlife Centre said on Wednesday it was still awaiting government clarification.
“If we are allowed to open we will be accepting as many people as we safely can from 10am on Monday,” he added.
Given up to a fifth of all Forest jobs are tourism-related, an industry hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak, business leaders have urged people to support local firms.
New Forest Business Partnership chairman Matthew Lawson said: “It is really encouraging New Forest businesses are slowly coming back to life and reopening in line with government guidance.
“Although most of the visitor economy in the New Forest has to wait until at least 4th July, I am so pleased that many other local businesses are able to get back to doing what they do best. They need our support and I hope local residents will support New Forest businesses in every way possible.”
The challenges facing firms in Hampshire were indicated in a survey by the county’s chamber of commerce that 170 firms took part in.
It revealed seven out of 10 are suffering a Covid-19-related downturn, and six out of 10 said their biggest challenge was restoring their orders.
A fifth have no cash reserves at all, or only enough to keep going for another month. More than 20% have had to close completely for the time being due to lack of work.
The chamber’s chief executive Ross McNally said: “Our members are telling us very clearly that reduced customer demand, cashflow issues and disrupted supply chains are causing them pain now and will continue to cause them huge challenges in the months ahead.
“Our message to ministers is that businesses here in Hampshire and across the UK need sustained government support to navigate the ‘new normal’.”
Some business have sprung back into action. Furzey Gardens in Minstead opened to a sold-out weekend on 6th and 7th June after generous benefactors gave £4,300 to get ready on time.
The site, part of the Minstead Trust charity, has a new entrance and one-way route. The toilets remain closed and the tearooms are serving a takeaway menu.
Pete White, head gardener, said it had been “so good” to see people back enjoying the gardens.
Other businesses opened on Thursday, including the family-run physiotherapy firm Bridge Health & Wellbeing Centre in Christchurch. It shut to face-to-face contact in March but ran Pilates, yoga and video consultations online.
Oakhaven Hospice shops in New Milton, Hythe and Lymington will reopen on Thursday 18th June from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday. Its other shops will reopen later.
The charity said its outlets were an “important source of income for the hospice”, which relies on fundraising, legacies and donations for 90% of its income.
Hotels including the luxury Pig group and Balmer Lawn in Brockenhurst are waiting to reopen on 4th July, as planned by the government, with contactless check-in and extra safety measures.
The Pig Hotels said on its first night back 190 specially-nominated NHS staff and carers will stay in its rooms. Regular guests can start to stay there again from 6th July.
Shorefield Holidays has rebranded its offering as “getaways” at its park when it reopens. It said the leisure facilities at all parks will remain closed until further notice, although a takeaway service will operate.