Businesses in Tier 1 Hereford and Tier 3 St Albans have revealed how changing Covid rules have left them facing very different prospects over Christmas.
Hertfordshire was moved from Tier 2 restrictions up to Tier 3, joining the likes of London, Kent and Greater Manchester from Saturday.
But Herefordshire bucked the national trend of doom and gloom during Mr Hancock’s announcement, as it was moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1 – the lowest possible alert level in England.
Latest footfall figures released today show the number of shoppers on Britain’s High Streets has fallen by nearly 40 per cent compared to this time last year.
Tighter measures mean added pressure on local businesses, with shops allowed to remain open, but pubs, restaurants and cafes forced to close except for takeaways.
Shops and business owners from Hereford and St Albans have spoken to MailOnline ahead of new measures that come into place at midnight on Saturday morning.
St Albans – ‘Shut again after moving heaven and earth’ to stay safe from Covid-19
Some businesses in St Albans, Herts, are having to dump stock after being shifted into Tier 3 of coronavirus restrictions.
Larger stores such as Marks and Spencer and Waterstones have remained open on the high street as shoppers head out for last-minute Christmas shopping.
But smaller businesses are facing a great deal more pressure at what is usually one of their busiest times of year.
Paddy Goodall, 23, who manages The Snug – a popular pub on the High Street, said he had to cancel 400 bookings for Saturday following yesterday’s announcement.
He said: ‘We’re just going to move to the take-out service.
St Albans town centre remained busy today ahead of Tier 3 Covid-19 measures coming into effect. Local pub owner Paddy Goodall said businesses had moved ‘heaven and earth,’ to stay open and Covid-compliant during the pandemic
‘I mean it’s naff, I’m not going to lie, like a lot of it relies on everyone being willing to support everyone and still being interested in popping in and having a mulled wine or takeaway cocktail.
‘All the hospitality on the street has moved heaven and earth to make sure they are COVID safe and now it’s just shut again.
‘All the shops, barbers and stuff like that are staying open, so I don’t really know.
‘You want to help fight but it would have been easier almost to be told we were all staying shut for Christmas.
‘And the difficulty with Tier 3 is that there is no time limit on it. So we could be in Tier 3 until March, we could be in Tier 3 until January.
‘Tier 3 was announced yesterday and we had 400 people booked in tomorrow. And now they’re not going to be able to come in. So a bit of warning would have been lovely.’
‘Ask me in a week when I’ve got no money,’ says market stall owner Sonia Jefferson (right), as businesses fear the impact of Tier 3 restrictions in St Albans
Footfall on Britain’s high streets has plummeted by nearly 40 per cent compared to this time last year, as St Albans prepares for Covid-19 restrictions to be tightened even further
Megan Long, 22, who works at Chloe James Lifestyle, said: ‘People are not going to go out and eat, they might think we’re not open.
‘We’ve been trying to promote loads on social media, saying that we’re still open.
‘But our business has been going really well, even throughout lockdown, because we redesigned the website and tried to push sales, with people coming in and collecting.’
Sonia Jefferson owns Jefferson Crafts market stall, which has been able to stay open as it sells essential cleaning and household items.
She said: ‘As far as I’m aware open markets are going ahead, so it’s not really going to affect us.
Chloe James Lifestyle has been reminding shoppers that it is open, but staff fear the closure of local pubs and restaurants could have an impact on trade with a week to go before Christmas
Today was the last chance for a drink and substantial meal in St Albans before Hertfordshire heads into Tier 3
‘We were affected, but going into level three I don’t think massively.
‘Footfall was exactly the same during lockdown, because people who come out for a take away coffee then have nothing to do.
‘But come ask me in a week when I’ve got no money.’
Joy Larholt, who owns Graphics Plus, a gallery which also sells ornaments and cards and has been open for 35 years said: ‘I think there will be another lockdown in January, I hate to say it.
‘The only positive thing about our council is we’re not paying rates so that is protecting us.
‘There’s going to be an absolute storm before Christmas time with people wanting to collect things.
‘We’re not really suffering from the lack of business, and people are coming locally because London’s Regent’s Street is apparently empty.
‘Tier 3 wont affect the area because people around here; it’s a very wealthy area, haven’t had expensive holidays, maybe haven’t had new cars and they are buying nice pictures.
Shoppers continued to visit St Albans town centre, with many traders expecting business to continue, despite Tier 3 measures
While businesses are not welcoming the tightening of lockdown measures, market stalls say they have been to keep on trading without too much of a problem
‘We’re middle of the range pictures, we’re not expensive like the other galleries.’
St Alban’s local Jo Pawley, who owns Flower Flowers, which has been trading on the high street for 20 years said: ‘I’m a street trader so I’m normally here when the market isn’t on.
‘Even though the market was able to trade during the first lockdown, we were unable to because we were classed as a non-essential shop so it has been tricky.
‘Tier 3 wont necessarily affect us as much because we often find during times of recession that flowers are things that people really enjoy. It’s a small bunch of something that cheers them up.
Hereford: Tier One measures have arrived ‘just in time’
Business owners and workers in Hereford say the decision to lower their tier has lifted Christmas spirits.
The announcement has brought cheer to the historic city despite heavy rain falling throughout Friday.
Clive Styles, 67, who sells flowers and plants in the city centre, beamed: ‘This is a good day for our city.
‘Let’s hope we can be sensible now as a community and stay in Tier One.
Herefordshire was the only region to be moved from Tier 2 down to Tier 1 during Matt Hancock’s announcement on Thursday
The move has been welcomed by locals, including stallholder Clive Styles, 67, who urged the community to stay ‘sensible,’ in light of measures easing
‘It’s fantastic news. I believe it has come just in time to bring shoppers into town for some last-minute Christmas spending. Well done Mr Hancock.’
Mountain Warehouse sales assistant Joanne Moore expressed her joy at the downgrade.
‘We love this news,’ she said.
‘I am so glad for the pub and restaurant trade in particular. They’ve been having a nightmare this year but hopefully this can go some way to making up for it.
‘But people have still got to be sensible when they’re out. It’s up to all of us to make it work now.’
Hereford woke up to a rainy Friday following Matt Hancock’s announcement, but local businesses remain upbeat.
Katherine Stanley, 26, who works in Holland and Barrett health store, said she was ‘thrilled’
‘Let’s not throw it all away now,’ warned Costa barista Emma, as Herefordshire hoped to remain in Tier 1 for the foreseeable future
Costa coffee barista Emma said: ‘I just urge everyone to behave responsibly. We’ve got the infection rate down sufficiently to move into a lower tier, let’s not throw it all away now.’
Katherine Stanley, 26, who works in Holland and Barrett health store, said she was ‘thrilled’.
She added: ‘I think its great news after an awful run-up to Christmas. People around here are really chuffed. Hereford is a very healthy city anyway so it’s well deserved.’
Market stall holder Global Charles said Hereford businesses had suffered a ‘difficult couple of months,’ but is hoping more shoppers will arrive tomorrow when Tier 2 measures are lifted
Market stall holder Global Charles, 35, who sells face masks and pipes, said: ‘It’s a really good thing for Hereford.
‘It’s come just in time for us. I hope and pray more people come into town and spend their money now because it’s been a difficult couple of months here.
‘The weather is awful but hopefully there’ll be a buzz about the place from tomorrow.’