Christmas shopping in Stevenage: how to stay safe and support your local retailers
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The big day is almost upon us, and a lot of us will be spending what time we have left getting organised for the festivities. Councillor John Gardner of Stevenage Borough Council shares his tips for staying safe in Stevenage town centre.
Q: How can people stay safe while shopping in Stevenage?
A: I understand that some people could be worried about going out, but they may be reassured by the measures we’ve put in place.
Like most towns, the shops have installed sanitising stations, and are limiting the number of customers that can enter to ensure social distancing can take place.
Both members of the council and the police will be present in the town, not as a threat, but to gently encourage those who may have either forgotten or are uninformed about the safety measures to follow them. They may request that people put on their masks when entering stores, and enforce social distancing in the high street.
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I know it’s difficult to adjust to this new way of living, but I would encourage everyone to follow the rules to keep yourself and the people around you safe.
I would also recommend that you get tested when you can, especially if you are showing any symptoms of coronavirus. If you test positive for Covid-19 please follow NHS and government guidelines and isolate for the necessary period of time.
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Q: Do you think it’s important that people make an effort to shop locally this year?
A: It’s always beneficial to shop in your local stores, but it’s more welcomed this year than ever. Interestingly, we’ve seen a real change in shopping trends recently, with more people choosing their local butcher, fruit and veg store, fish and chip shop and newsagents over the big brands. Many people are buying fresh, quality goods from local suppliers rather than large supermarkets.
Shopping in your local stores keeps money in the area, which results in more jobs for people, increased wealth in the community, and an overall healthier local economy.
We’re pressing forward with major employers in the area and making plans for the economic recovery of Stevenage. We recognise that it’s going to take a long time to get back to where we were, but we’re active in looking for opportunities to develop and grow.
Q: What is the benefit of shopping in Stevenage town centre?
A: The town is ever-changing, offering a wide range of shops and regular events.
Although we’re not able to put on as many Christmas events as we’d like this year, we are running raffle competitions, with prizes contributed by the shops in the centre, and of course, our Christmas tree is up, as well as a plethora of lights across the town. We are looking forward to next year when we hope we can offer a full itinerary of events, bringing back our big light switch on with fireworks.
However, we have to think positively, and there are certainly lessons to be learnt from Covid – there are opportunities for change and innovation. In the future, we’re hoping to add more cultural attractions, such as a museum, to the town centre to make it more exciting for local people and tourists. We aim to make Stevenage better, while retaining its incredible history.