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Marlow shoppers 'eager' to return to high street

MARLOW 128351-2

The president of the Marlow Chamber of Commerce says that there is an 'eagerness' and 'buzz' about the town as shoppers return to the high street.

It has been about a week since places like non-essential stores, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality reopened their doors to the public after a long winter of closure.

Lesley James is happy with the footfall that is being displayed in Marlow following the latest easing of restrictions, but is remaining cautious about whether this summer will be as profitable as it usually is in the Bucks town. 

"The first week was very busy. The first few days we had a couple of our members report back that some places had been stripped of stock," she said.

"People are really desperate to get back, have a wander round and have a look at what is going on. There is a definite buzz about the place."

Lesley added: "We are only one step in the right direction, there is another step at least, but it is feeling much busier. It is encouraging.

"You can see the eagerness to do as much as possible but still stay within the boundaries. People are chomping at the bit to get back towards normality. It is nice to see."

Some hospitality businesses have found the reopening of their sector outside-only a struggle, due to a lack of outdoor space for some. 

The Strawberry Grove cafe, which has locations in both Maidenhead and Marlow, has seen its Maidenhead branch be unable to open at all due to a lack of pavement space outside, but the Marlow cafe is able to accommodate outdoor seating. 

It is hoped that the Maidenhead Strawberry Grove will soon benefit from some outdoor seating following the removal of some parking spaces, although these plans are yet to be finalised. 

Some hospitality firms in Marlow are also struggling for outdoor space, which Lesley says is a 'shame'.

The president also said that other businesses in the town have had to make tough decisions about whether to open at all. 

"Making that decision about whether to get all your staff off furlough, but you can only have [a few] seats outside, it is a difficult situation to be in," Lesley said.

The Marlow Chamber has attempted to put reopening businesses on the map through a video on its website which has done the rounds online.

In the video are snippets of independent business owners in Marlow reopening their doors and expressing a desire to welcome customers back. 

"I said to a few businesses, would you be interested and they bit my hand off," Lesley said.

"It is an exercise to try and get them being talked about and being seen, and banishing all of that darkness and finally seeing some optimism and colour coming back to everything."

The plan for the Chamber now is to look forward to the next easing of restrictions, planned for Monday, May 17, when pubs and restaurants will be able to serve people indoors. 

The next stage after this will be the long-awaited Monday, June 21, when all restrictions on social contact could end if strict tests are met. 

Lesley said that she expects people to keep returning to the high streets as the summer progresses, and hopes that enough will feel safe to visit their local towns. 

"I do not expect it [footfall] to drop off exactly, whether we have a summer that we normally have, is yet to be seen," Lesley added. 

"There was a little bit of noise before about people saying 'I am not coming back to the high street yet', but it does not seem to have impacted the amount of people out at the moment."

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