Hitchin town centre manager calls for protection for independents hit hardest by lockdown

PUBLISHED: 10:48 11 November 2020 | UPDATED: 11:03 11 November 2020

Hitchin town centre manager Tom Hardy has called for the government to help protect independent businesses during lockdown 2.0. Picture: Supplied

Hitchin town centre manager Tom Hardy has called for the government to help protect independent businesses during lockdown 2.0. Picture: Supplied

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Hitchin’s town centre manager has called on the government to protect the nation’s independent shops during lockdown 2.0.

Tom Hardy is the passionate mind behind much of the success of Hitchin BID, the business partnership that works with more than 600 of the town’s businesses.

Like many of us, he cherishes the host of independent retailers that make Hitchin what it is today.

But, reacting to news that data projections that were presented at the press briefing that preceded lockdown were incorrect, Tom said he felt he had to call on the government to do more.

Speaking to the Comet, Tom said: “I remember so clearly walking into the Market Place a week into the first lockdown and you could hear a pin drop in the town centre.

The Comet is running a campaign encouraging people to Shop Local this Christmas. Picture: Danny LooThe Comet is running a campaign encouraging people to Shop Local this Christmas. Picture: Danny Loo

“All businesses had closed, everybody was staying at home and the only person standing in that square was myself and a family of pheasants!

“We’re now nearly a week into the second lockdown and the town centre has a very different feel to it.

“With schools, takeaways, click and collect, estate agents and anyone ‘not able to work from home’ staying open and operating, the public seem to have taken a very laxed view on the measures.”

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As part of our Shop Local campaign, we’ve already highlighted some of the fantastic independent businesses in Hitchin who will be hit hardest by this lockdown.

Adding another nail to the coffin, some larger retailers such as Hotel Chocolat or WHSmith have been allowed to remain open, but smaller independents such as David’s Bookshop in Letchworth, or Vintage Bay in Hitchin have been forced to close.

Tom added: “This week I walked through the town to see the streets full of people taking the opportunity to use the ‘essential’ shops that remain open to purchase ‘non-essential’ goods.

“It’s painful to see so many of our retailers who rely on November and December to survive the quieter months in the new year, forced to close.

“I then read in the press that the Government’s forecast (the main reason for opting for this lockdown) was a ‘mistake’.

“It is not only a huge financial blow for our town centre, but this ‘mistake’ may force a large number of our much-loved businesses to close permanently.

“I’m calling on the Government to squeeze another U-turn in before the end of the year and reopen retail immediately to give our town centre a fighting chance to survive.

“I really hope that the residents and users of Hitchin town centre will step up, come out, and support our town centre this Christmas.”

To support the town’s independents, Hitchin BID has launched a social media campaign, video compilations, an online business directory and interactive shopping map, voucher scheme and the Christmas Market which is due to start on Tuesday, December 2.


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