Non-essential shops could be open by mid-March with hospitality businesses to follow by the middle of April.
That’s the prediction of Matthew Chapman, manager of Huddersfield Business Improvement District (BID).
The countdown is on to Monday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to reveal his “road map” for the lifting of lockdown restrictions and a gradual re-opening of the economy.
Huddersfield BID represents 600 shops and businesses in and around the town centre and Matthew and his team are working hard to ensure everything is ready to go when Mr Johnson gives the green light.
“We’ve done a lot of planning but this week people have gone a bit quiet because everyone seems to be waiting for Monday,” said Matthew.
“I know the Prime Minister doesn’t want to commit to dates but we all need some light at the end of the tunnel. If we can’t have a date then we need tangible figures on how low case numbers must fall before hospitality, for example, can re-open.”
Matthew thinks non-essential shops will probably open in mid-March and pubs and restaurants in mid-April but he added: “It will all be data-driven, and that means it’s very much in our own hands if we keep following the guidance.”
When the town centre does open for business again Matthew believes there is pent-up demand and that people will flood back.
“Currently our figures are showing that footfall in the town centre is down 78% but there’s still a level of excitement amongst the key workers who are in the town and people walking through on their daily exercise.”
Matthew said as soon as restrictions were lifted there would be a real appetite among people to come back.
“We saw it in July after the first lockdown and we saw it again in December after the second one.
“People came back but were impeccably behaved. They felt like the shackles had been cut,” said Matthew.
“Footfall was good, spending was good. In fact, in the first two weeks of December, some traders reported that business was up year-on-year on the same week in 2019.”
As thoughts turn to the lifting of lockdown, Huddersfield BID has published a questionnaire called ‘Understanding Your Perception.’
The online questionnaire asks for opinions and views on the town centre and the results will help shape BID policy and activities.
To take part CLICK HERE