We explore the full impact of second lockdown on Bath city centre

We are once again going through another lockdown and many businesses in the city have been forced to shut down.

Countless businesses across Bath have quickly adapted their trade making radical changes to survive in the new climate, offering takeaways, deliveries, and many are offering products at a reduced price to entice customers.

The pandemic has already claimed many shops, with empty lots scattered across the city. Big brands have struggled too, with Laura Ashley and Benson for Beds going under.

The true impact of what another coronavirus shut down will have on Bath and its traders remains to be seen as the situation is ongoing.

Yet some are already deeply feeling the effects of the four-week firebreak lockdown after an already difficult year.

We spoke to traders, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse and other local businesses about their fears for the future.

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The common theme was that this lockdown was proving harder than the first as independents battled bigger chains who are allowed to stay open and sell the same products.

Wild about the Flowers, from Keynsham, said: “We’ve had to close along with many others in our High Street. We are offering click and collect and delivery.

“The second lockdown is proving more challenging at peak trading period- supermarkets and big retailers can stay open and then sell same items closed small businesses do.”

Hugh Padfield, who runs The Bath Soft Cheese Company said deliveries have also become an essential part of the business.

Mr Padfield, who runs the 240-acre Park Farm, said in the first lockdown people were scared to go to the supermarket so changed to different ways of shopping.

It meant his famous cheeses saw a “dramatic” rise in online sales which helped tide the famous cheese business over.

Yet in the second lockdown there hasn’t been the same fear of going to the supermarket so the orders have not been as good.

He said: “This second lockdown has been less frightening but more depressing for business.

“Last time people had a real fear about going to the supermarket and going to big shops so we saw a huge increase in demand.

“It’s not been as big this time as people aren’t so scared to go out. They aren’t trying to do their weekly shops differently.”

He added not having the Christmas market was another blow to business.

Wera Hobhouse, the Bath MP said she understood that this was a challenging time for businesses.

Yet she said the alternative – of allowing COVID-19 to spread any further in the community – would also be bad for trade.

Wera Hobhouse, prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Bath
Wera Hobhouse, Bath MP

The Liberal Democrat said: “The economy and public health are not separate. If the virus is allowed to spread then our economy will also suffer.

“I know that lockdown can be hard for businesses. However, the alternative – where we continue to allow people across our community to be exposed to COVID-19 – would also be very bad for business.

“I am working to hold the government to account and ensure that everyone in Bath has the support that they need during this hard winter, from independent businesses to those who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

“I remain proud of our community and know that we will work together to support those in need this Christmas and beyond.”

Ms Hobhouse added: “I am grateful to live in such a wonderful place where everyone thinks about the needs of others – we need to continue to do this as a city, remembering to put those who are most at risk first and make small sacrifices to keep our whole community safe.”

In true Bath spirit, many businesses are rallying hard in these extreme circumstances.

One such example is Sugarcane Studios who opened one week before the second lockdown on Grove Street.

Run by couple Fang-Yu Lin, 33, and Neil Edwards 36, the store has switched to takeaways to see it through.

Sugarcane Studio opened three weeks ago but had to shut down almost immediately
(Image: Sugarcane Studio)

Miss Lin said: “It was great at the start for business, so many people coming in. We’re now doing takeaways but there has been a considerable drop over lockdown.

“We do have loyal customers who are coming back and we’re lucky we have a shop this time as back in March we just had the Bath farmers market stall.”

Pastry chef Lin said she was excited to reopen in December and greet customers in the shop once again.

What about businesses that support businesses?

Businesses that work full time on supporting traders and businesses are also surviving.

Allison Herbert, CEO of the Bath BID, said with no Christmas market businesses have “no guarantee” that they will make enough sales to continue.

She said: “Bath’s businesses are facing the toughest challenge this November.”

“Usually the highlight of the high street calendar, with the opening of the very successful Bath Christmas Market, this year, they have no guarantee of the sales they need to keep going.”

The BID team recently launched a new website designed to support businesses in Bath telling people what is still open over lockdown.

Ms Herbert continued: “I hope that our contribution to supporting them via the Welcome to Bath website will be welcomed by the community and businesses as a helpful guide, and that everyone will make the most of the click and collect, delivery and takeaway options that businesses are offering.”

Melissa Blease has worked on The Pig Guide, a verifiable gold mine of local advice and reviews on businesses in Bath, since 2009.

Ms Blease said The Pig Guide is a “small cog in a massive wheel of businesses that revolve around the hospitality industry, all of whom have suffered the impact of lockdown too”.

The Pig Guide acts as a link between food and drink businesses in Bath and customers, helping them gain promotion and it often helps food-related charities in Bath.

As lockdown hit, Ms Blease made the decision to suspend annual membership fees to “to offer as much support as possible to local businesses in a time of dire need at the start of the first lockdown”.

She said she has considering crowdfunding to stay open and luckily has been approached by an angel investor who may help.

Melissa Blease, The Pig Guide
(Image: The Pig Guide)

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Yet like all businesses it’s not been easy. Ms Blease said: “But the trouble is… I wonder how much longer I can continue to put so much time and energy into an initiative that I absolutely love without any kind of financial recompense to cover my own costs.

“It would break my heart to close The Pig Guide, so I refuse to even consider such drastic action. A whole host of businesses have pledged to sign up for annual membership on fully reopening – a heartwarming bonus that I never once asked for, but gives me further impetus to keep calm and carry on.”

She added that feelings of community spirit, perseverance and determination is how Bath’s hospitality industry has rallied.

She said: “While our everyday lives are still about as far removed from life as we knew it at, say, the beginning of this year, a new kind of rhythm and energy has gradually started to replace the ominous feelings of downbeat dread that dominated those dreadful days at the end of March.

“Community spirit, perseverance, support, determination and kindness have come to the fore – and Bath’s hospitality industry is at the heart of that momentum.”

Somerset Live Bath