CHRISTMAS, a shift to online shopping and the High Street’s temporary pedestrianisation are just some of the concerns raised by Shaftesbury shop owners as we continue living in a world gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite this, retailers and key figures are also optimistic in the lead up to the festive season, reflecting positively on how businesses have coped since reopening in June.

One essential retailer, Shaftesbury Wines, did not stop trading during the peak of the lockdown but instead offered a collection service from the site’s entrance.

David Perry of Shaftesbury Wines said the business has seen “an increase in sales”, as customers were visiting with intention and were unable to browse, however he feels the current method of service may impact sales over Christmas.

He said: “We can’t afford to relax these measures and we have continued usual trading patterns, the big worry is Christmas as this is usually our big spike in sales.

“We’re limited to the speed we can serve people.”

David added that a shift to online shopping could also impact larger businesses in the town and surrounding cities.

He said: “[Shaftesbury] is a nice place to shop, and during this time customers have engaged a lot more with us and other independents.

“People are rediscovering the joys of shopping locally rather than shopping in larger cities. Places like Shaftesbury seem to be okay at the moment but I fear for the bigger areas.”

Another High Street shop owner, who has asked to remain anonymous, told the Journal a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and the road’s temporary pedestrianisation has caused her business to suffer.

They said the solution to improve trade is either a “one-way system” implemented through the town, or pedestrianisation at weekends only.

They added: “My main issue is that blue-badge holders cannot park near my shop, and here in Shaftesbury there is a more elderly and wealthy population that we should be acknowledging.”

The business owner added: “Shaftesbury is a fabulous town with lots of independent businesses, but there needs to be more parking facilities for [our] half of the High Street. If not Christmas is going to be really tough for us.”

Virginia Edwyn-Jones, chairperson of Shaftesbury and District Chamber of Commerce, said campsites surrounding the town, newly installed artwork and future plans for a Christmas market are helping boost tourism and shopping within the area.

She said: “All in all, the High Street has had a much better than expected summer.

“Whilst there are a few shops who feel that the temporary pedestrianisation has adversely affected their business, the majority of retailers have maintained sales and some have exceeded last year’s figures by some way.

“The chamber produced some artwork promoting Shaftesbury as ‘Safe To Shop’ and this has been out on road sides in and out of Shaftesbury’s approaches and we’ve just updated it with an autumnal theme.

“We’ve had visitors from Bath, Bournemouth, Poole and Southampton coming to visit us as they love the idea of a small High Street where they can easily socially distance, so we need to make the most of promoting this."

Virginia added: “We’re also looking at markets and are hoping to host a Christmas market on November 29. We feel that being proactive in a practical way is the best use of our time and resources.

"And of course the Christmas trees will be going up as usual – nothing will stop Shaftesbury celebrating Christmas!"

Mayor of Shaftesbury Andy Hollingshead, who described the High Street as "a popular and safe shopping destination", added: “Many shops have seen their takings improve, and the pubs and restaurants are coping really well with balancing essential Covid safety measures with demand.

“The fact that three new independent shops are in the process of opening, four if you include a seasonal pop-up, plus other shops expanding or relocating to larger premises shows how vibrant and exciting Shaftesbury is as a shopping destination.”