Wales re-entered what is known as a ‘firebreak’ lockdown last Friday, shutting down all non-essential businesses. Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales, has described the lockdown as a “short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and buy us more time”.

With some non-essential businesses having only been allowed to open as late as August, this 17-day firebreak is sure to be a serious blow. Seren decided to talk to a number of small business owners to find out how they feel about the newest government lockdown.

Sparx – Costume Shop – High Street – “It’s just pushing people to use the internet.”

“Well this is Halloween… I get a lot down for Halloween, it’s my busiest time of year usually. This is busy now for how it’s been but generally it’s been terribly quiet. So no, not very happy,” said Gill Radley, the proprietor of Sparx.

“I don’t know, I just worry we’ll be locked down for two weeks and then get another two weeks. I just hope it does finish then, in two weeks. It’s just pushing people to use the internet and not help the high street.”

“So that’s the worry, I think it’s such a shame people move automatically to the internet. I understand why, cause the range is out there but I do worry about Amazon. But you can’t really do much to help the local business given lockdown.”

Vintage Shop – Apparel – Upper Bangor – “It’s not the best but I do think it’s the best we can do.”

“I think [the lockdown]will actually make a difference this time, as long as it’s two weeks. I do think it’s quite reasonable what [Drakeford] is doing,” said the proprietor of the Vintage Shop.

“I think it hopefully will give us retail from when it finishes till Christmas. And the NHS do actually need help. It’s not the best but I think Drakeford’s done well. I don’t think we’ll be able to assess it ‘til afterwards, but if it’s what we need to do every so often to prevent the horrendousness that can happen, then I guess it’s what we’re going to have to do.

“I think at least by closing the businesses, it’s better than if you make it to the point where non-essential businesses can stay open, but no one is able to visit them. That’s equally as disruptive.

“It’s not the best but I do think it’s the best we can do.”

Café Clena – Café – Upper Bangor – “The goalposts get moved every week.”

“I’m feeling hopeful that this lockdown will bring a change, so they can stop the rates of infection increasing as it is now. But also, is this really the right way to go about it? Because I’m not really sure that an entire lockdown of the country is the most enforceable decision,” said Eleri ‘Clena’, the proprietor of the recently-opened Café Clena.

“I opened two weeks before the [March] lockdown and ever since then it’s just been an uphill battle, and a losing battle as well cause we’ve been really struggling since reopening in august and we’ve had very little assistance to help us through this so it’s been really difficult.

“Because we’ve just been through a local lockdown two weeks ago, a lot of students haven’t come back, and we’ve had barely any [government]help since the first initial help. And the initial help only got us to re-open really, it didn’t really help us to cover the foreseeable future, because there’s still rent costs and bills even when you are closed.

“We’ve had to adapt everything. Change our guidelines every day. We’ve had to do a lot more work online, but there are limitations to what we can do without putting more money in. And putting money into something that actually provides clientele is quite difficult. The goalposts get moved every week for us. At the beginning we had to have windows and doors open for ventilation, now it’s getting colder you don’t have to do that, you just have to wear masks to a table. So, the guidelines are moving every week and that leaves people a little bit nervous all the time. Because they’re never able to settle with what’s going on, they’re always having to change themselves.

“But I am hopeful. If [Drakford] is lying about the 17 days I’d probably freak out to be honest with you. I hope he’s not; he’s been quite truthful so far. I’ve got a bit more hope in Drakeford than I do in the conservative government.”

On Friday, the Welsh government also announced a ban on the sale of non-essential items in supermarkets, in a bid to create a “level playing field with small businesses”. Read the comments by local businesses on the ban at this link.

For an outline on the new rules of the firebreak lockdown, click here.

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Business Editor | 2020-21

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