11:55AM, Thursday 22 April 2021
High Street, Maidenhead.
An independent clothes shop in Maidenhead had its most profitable first week back as the coronavirus lockdown continues to ease.
Non-essential stores were allowed to trade again at the start of last week in the next step of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Alan Murray, owner of Peakes Menswear in High Street, called the first week back ‘superb’.
“We had our best week last week for a long time,” he said. “Everybody was pleased to get out I think.
“It was just having our regulars in who had a good spend up. They went for outfits more so than just single items, and that’s where it added up.
“I know we have been closed for a long time, but this was even better than prior to the lockdown. It was superb.”
Alan said that the support from customers is ‘appreciated’ after several months of closure in which he still had to pay rent and other running costs.
“We have been praying to get reopen because we do not do online sales,” he said. “We still had the rent, electric, everything had to be paid for. All the stock we ordered before Christmas had to be paid for.
“The running costs kept coming in. We got grants which was great, but they didn’t cover the full rent.”
The Peakes owner added that he has not had much time out of the store but has spotted more people in Maidenhead High Street as restrictions eased over the last week.
“I think most shops had a good reaction,” he said. “There was certainly a good footfall which I could see.”
The hope for shops now is that this footfall remains constant, with some fearing that the novelty of shopping may wear off. Alan said that it will probably ‘settle down’.
“Nobody is going to come out buying clothes for the sake of it,” he said. “But if we keep reopening [the town], I think we will be fine.”
Mike Miller, president of the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce, said: "Our message is: stay safe. The Chamber is here to help you find solutions. The main aim is to make sure businesses are safe, their customers and employees are safe, and the Government recognises where they need to give support.
“Everybody is being cautious and I think that is great. And there are people that aren’t. The last thing you want to have is people doing silly things and it creates a new lockdown effectively.”
Mike expressed sympathy for hospitality venues such as Strawberry Grove and Emmanuela’s, in Bridge Street, which have been unable to open to due a lack of outdoor space.
Plans are in motion to allow these businesses to open outdoors following the suspension of some nearby parking bays, although proposals are still being finalised.
There is also an overarching aim of potentially closing this road off to traffic to create an al fresco dining street.
This is something the Chamber ‘might’ have a conversation with the council about in the future, Mike added.
A Windsor and Maidenhead council spokesman said: “The council is open to exploring ways that streets and spaces could be used differently and would be happy to work with businesses to see if options are feasible.
“The council is running a reopening campaign and the messaging “Don’t let your guard down” alongside the guard imagery will be used across the whole of the borough.
“We will also be working on plans for the rest of the year to support the local business community and help the borough recover post pandemic.”
The candidates standing in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election have outlined their priorities for policing in the region.