SHOPS in Fordingbridge and across the district have been welcoming customers back through their doors for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown forced many to close their premises.

The Journal has been speaking to retailers in Fordingbridge about reopening and the impact of the pandemic.

Sian Currie, of Luxury Bubble, which only opened last December, said: “It is lovely to see some customers back in town. Hopefully onwards and upwards.”

The High Street boutique reopened on Monday but the cafe and beauticians on the second floor remain closed at this time. For now the cafe has been turned into a homewares department.

Sian said as a new business she had to get its online presence up-and-running quickly due to the lockdown, adding: “It wasn’t the same as being open but it was something and some sort of residual income that I could put into the bank balance.”

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A range of safety and social distancing measures have been introduced by the retailers.

Louise Codling, of Allsorts Emporium in High Street, which also reopened on Monday after having to close in March, said: “I thank each and every customer for their continued support.”

“I am very happy and extremely grateful for any customer who enters my shop. These are certainly unprecedented times.

“The lockdown has had an enormous affect on my business. I looked back on my past three years trading and could not believe the amount of money I’ve lost. Despite the grant monies etc which helped I am still a lot of money down on previous years,” she added.

“We are all in this together - business owners and customers. So we can only try to help and support one another. This is my fifth year anniversary trading in Fordingbridge and I was hopping it would be a special one.”

Tina Ward, the manager of Timothy’s, which reopened on Monday, said: “It goes without saying that this created a massive challenge for our little shop on the High Street in Fordingbridge.”

She says the government’s job retention scheme was an “incredible support” for the business as well as the support from customers.

Speaking about the reopening she said: “The support we received from lots of local townspeople was amazing. The weather was sunny, the clients coming in appeared to be really happy and excited to be part of our opening, Sue Furness and I couldn’t believe that so many of our lovely, loyal customers had wanted to show their support by coming in and buying from us.”

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“Being blessed with this support in our small-town retail sector has made us feel so proud to be in Fordingbridge," added Tina.

The Fordingbridge Bookshop reopened yesterday. David Calais, who runs the shop, which has still been able to operate through online sales and via telephone and email, said: “Obviously, the chance to get the business going on the high street again from a financial point of view is fantastic.”

He says trade has been down but praised the support from customers as well as the small business grant and their landlord.

Jackie Lockyer, of Caxtons Decor in Salisbury Street, which started welcoming customers back on Friday, said it was “good to be back open” and the business had been supported through it by their customers.

“We are very lucky, we have got a very loyal customer base who have been supporting us all the way through it. The customers, and us, are really pleased to see each other again rather than being on the end of a phone, which isn’t quite the same," she said.

“Obviously by having to close it effected us badly. A lot of our customers are self isolating so it has made a difference to trade because a lot of people haven’t been going out,” added Jackie. “It’s great to see them back.”

Fordingbridge Mayor, Edward Hale said he was “delighted” many of the shops in the town have been able to reopen, adding: “I know the next few months will be critical to the future of the shops in our town so I really hope that as many of us as possible will be able to support our local businesses so these can continue to trade successfully.”

The Furlong shopping centre in Ringwood has also started welcoming back customers. A spokesperson said: “The Furlong is delighted to welcome shoppers back to Ringwood. The stores and the centre staff have been working hard behind the scenes to put in place extra safety measures.”