Empty premises have become a common sight on high streets up and down the country, and Salisbury’s is no exception.

Debenhams, Laura Ashley and Pizza Hut are just some of the retail and fast food giants to have pulled out of the city in recent months as a result of the pandemic. With the uncertainty of further lockdowns on the horizon, more could follow suit.

As the surviving businesses do their best to entice shoppers to the city centre in this Covid world, residents and landlords are being urged to play their part in helping businesses recover and stop the list of high street casualties from spiralling out of control.

‘Use them or lose them’ is now more important, and true, than ever before.

'I don't know what Christmas will look like'

Salisbury Journal: Rachel Tribbeck of HR Tribbeck & Son. Picture by Salisbury BIDRachel Tribbeck of HR Tribbeck & Son. Picture by Salisbury BID

Independent businesses in Salisbury say support from the public is crucial if they are to keep going amid restrictions and growing uncertainty.

Jewellers HR Tribbeck & Son on Bridge Street has been operating with reduced staff and opening hours since they reopened in June.

Although trade has started to pick up with the business “slowly getting back to something resembling normality”, a big question mark remains over Christmas.

Owner Rachel Tribbeck said: “We’ve got to remain optimistic going forward but I don’t know what Christmas is going to look like this year. I’m hopeful that locals will choose to support their local independents and choose to support city centres as opposed to shopping malls. Here we’re in the open air, you can walk around outside without a mask. I’m hopeful city centres will benefit from this.”

For high streets where most businesses have been allowed to reopen, online shopping remains the biggest threat, causing dozens of firms to shut up shop.

As the trend is not likely to slow anytime soon, with many choosing not to venture out much while Covid is still spreading, Ms Tribbeck recognises the need for businesses to change and adapt to people’s needs.

“We’ve got to offer customers lots of new ways of shopping, by doing things over the telephone, virtual shopping through our website and looking at social media in order to get people to do things slightly differently.”

“It’s challenging but then again, the world is challenging,” she added.

Response to online criticism

Online, a large number of social media users have been critical of Salisbury city centre, suggesting there is not much on offer and no “decent shops left”.

It’s a bleak view of the city Ms Tribbeck is strongly opposed to.

“I find it difficult to read those comments,” she said. “I’m here and I’m doing my best to stay here and offer something that you can’t find on the internet so reading those comments you feel like ‘what’s the point’ but we have to bear in mind that those who have positive things to say often don’t put pen to paper. You just have to think they’re not the majority.

“We’ve got a lot to offer here in Salisbury, it’s a beautiful city, we’ve got some amazing shops who are doing their very best to provide people with different and unique, individual experiences, we’ve got fantastic history and we’re lucky that it’s a safe city so I think we should start to appreciate what we’ve got.”

Salisbury BID director Susi Mason, owner of Casa Fina, claims the city's High Street "is not suffering any more than any other high street across the country".

She too is urging residents to support the city's businesses through the winter.

Meanwhile, the leader of Salisbury City Council, Cllr Jeremy Nettle, is calling on landlords of empty premises to "do their bit" and lower rents.