Ian Noble, Uckfield Chamber of Commerce#SupportLocal 


“I guess we were all hoping for a better start to 2021 following the year that we were all pleased to see the back of! Lockdown 3.0 isn’t what businesses ordered and yet the landscape doesn’t feel quite so bleak as 10 months ago.

Undoubtedly some businesses are on their knees and they need all the love and support that local people can provide; if the government has decreed that you cannot open now, then obviously, there is a good reason with the war on Coronavirus increasing apace. Particularly hard hit is non-essential retail although some Uckfield based independents have pivoted with ‘click & collect’ systems, virtual appointments to view merchandise and food delivered to your door!

Never has it been more important to ‘Shop Local’ where you can. We are beginning to see some evidence too of the ‘Reopening High Streets Safely’ fund that was administered via our district council. The ‘Shop & Dine well in Wealden’ campaign is a good one and one that we can all fully get behind albeit that momentum remains slow and hampered by the current lockdown, whereas upon launch shops and our high street were open for business.

A huge part of the problem for businesses is the fast-changing pace of the government restrictions that are a moving feast. Think of somewhere like a Soft Play centre; one of the last businesses allowed to reopen after lockdown 1.0, they invest energy and finance into being ‘COVID secure’ only to be shut down again weeks later.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some businesses have positively thrived. Think of the Farm Shops in our rural economy within Uckfield’s surrounding villages; they’ve been open throughout with queues literally out of the door and have also offered delivery schemes.

At the Chamber, we have simply had to adapt. Our events and more are online with many business people fast becoming Zoom experts! And as we seriously become more competent with the technology there are less occasions where you hear the immortal words, “You’re on mute!”

In summary, we have been better prepared for this current lockdown with new ways of working imbedded within organisations. When we are through this madness and social distancing is a thing of the past, I’ve no doubt that businesses will keep the best bits of what’s been learnt in the last year alongside a team visit to the pub on a Friday after work!”

Ian Noble, Uckfield Chamber of Commerce