South Shields businesses reflect on 'crazy year' since the first national covid lockdown began
South Tyneside businesses are looking back on a year like no other, as the UK reaches the anniversary of the first national lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown on March 23, 2020, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 across the UK.
The public were told that they were only allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons which included food shopping, exercise once per day and travelling for work when absolutely necessary.
Schools were shut just days beforehand and, under the new restrictions, all shops selling non-essential goods had to close - along with hairdressers, gyms and restaurants.
The first national lockdown was eased in May and June. But, over the course of 2020, further national lockdowns and measures had a huge impact on borough residents’ livelihoods.
Like many other business owners, South Shields hairdresser Sinead Clayton said there were points at which she was unsure whether her business would survive the pandemic.
The 30-year-old, who has run Stanhope Road salon, ‘The Hairdresser On The Corner,’ for nearly three years, said: “I thought I was going to have to close the business if I’m being honest.
"I had literally reached that point.
She continued: “If it wasn’t for South Tyneside Council giving out the grants – if it wasn’t for that extra support, would we really be here?
"They are still helping, there is still another grant coming when we open in April – that has been a massive help in itself.”
Sinead is now due to open her business on April 12, as the latest national lockdown is eased and says ‘it can’t come quick enough,’ with appointments fully booked until May.
"A lot of my clients have dementia so I have been ringing them up throughout the lockdowns to make sure they are OK, because for some people hairdressers are like a social hub,” she said.
Reflecting on the anniversary of the first lockdown, Sinead said that mentally it had been ‘absolute torture’ during the periods where she didn't know when her business would be able to reopen.
"It has been an emotional rollercoaster,” she said.
“To think it has been a year – it’s absolutely crazy."
She added: “My clients have been amazing throughout, sending messages and calling me to see if I’m OK.”
Kaz Choudhury, who manages Radhuni’s restaurant on Ocean Road, made the bold decision to open a new clothes shop in the town centre mid-pandemic.
The Outlet Clothing shop opened its doors to the public last September, just weeks before South Tyneside entered ‘Tier 2’ of the Government’s local lockdown system.
"September would be quite a quiet time of the year, anyway, with the return to school etc,” he told The Gazette.
"Obviously, a lot of big-name retailers have gone from King Street in recent years, which has a knock-on effect for other traders in the town as less punters end up going into the town centre.”
The shop was forced to close its doors just a matter of months after opening as the North East was placed in ‘Tier 3’ before the latest national lockdown was announced at the beginning of this year.
But Kaz hopes to draw in customer through a number of reopening discount offers and has appealed to residents ahead of the summer season, as restrictions begin to lift.
"Not being able to make the most of Christmas shopping last year was another blow,” he said.
“Whatever’s left of King Street when we come out of this will need as much support as it can get. So, please, keep continuing to support us and to help independent businesses in the area survive.”