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Local businesses spurred on by support as high street reopens

Shoppers returned to their high streets this week, as Norfolk was lifted out of a national lockdown and placed under new tier two restrictions.

The measures mean people are unable to mix with other households indoors, however, non-essential shops have been given the green light to begin trading again.

On Wednesday, stores in Diss and the wider area dusted off their shutters as they welcomed back customers for the first time in a month.

Shoppers returned to the high street on Wednesday. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.
Shoppers returned to the high street on Wednesday. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.

However, some remained closed, with November’s national circuit breaker proving to be the final straw following nine months of increasing financial strain.

While footfall remained down, the promise of a mass coronavirus vaccine roll-out sparked an optimism across the town, as business owners and shoppers alike looked forward to next year, when many expect the high street to return to normal.

Buoyed by the response to the pandemic, traders expressed a hope that a new-found sense of community would help pull their businesses over the line.

“You can feel the local support,” said Amanda Kane, whose interior decorative store, Hilary and Alice, opened for the first time on Wednesday.

“We have had people waving in the windows, giving us the thumbs up – there’s a feeling that people want to support local businesses: people don’t want to give their Christmases to Amazon.

“It’s not easy opening a new venture, especially now, so support from the community is fundamental to our success.”

Problems facing high street stores in Diss long pre-date the pandemic; year-on-year, growing numbers of shoppers have favoured spending their money in the metropolitan hubs of Norwich and Ipswich over shopping local.

Diss town councillor Jim Welch, who was out shopping on Wednesday, said that the 40-mile round trip either up or down the A140 was quickly losing its appeal, as high street heavyweights dish out manic sales to draw customers back in.

“A lot of people I have spoken to are saying they are going in to Diss rather than going to Norwich, because its smaller and there’s not all the nuisance,” said Mr Welch, of Denmark Street.

“You look at what’s happening with some of these stores – it’s a lot more civilised here.”

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