I HAVE been encouraged to hear that a number of Worcestershire city, town and village high streets have been faring better-than-expected in terms of getting back to ‘business as usual’.

It seems that their custom, which often relies less heavily on office workers than their neighbouring metropolitan city centres, has recovered quite strongly in recent weeks.

However, last week’s Government announcement of extended restrictions – coupled with the potential for more draconian local lockdowns, create further challenges for all high street businesses that rely on physical ‘footfall’.

The scale of that challenge should not be underestimated. Across the country, forced closures and travel restrictions have caused huge losses for many high street businesses, with a significant number closing down as a result.

For example, latest findings by the Centre For Retail Research predicts that as many as one in 10 store sites may never sell goods again.Overall, fashion, home and non-food retailers have lost £9 billion in sales so far this year. In the retail sector alone, it is estimated that at least 125,000 jobs have been lost so far this year.

Even before the CV-19 pandemic hit, it was clear that our high streets were struggling, not least because the shift to online retailing remained strong.

By and large, those with strong online and physical offers were managing to maintain sales, while those without suffered.

These trends have been thrown into sharp focus by current circumstances. The need for businesses to diversify and adapt to remain resilient has never been greater. These changes cannot be made overnight however.

That’s why we're calling on everyone to support their small business community wherever and whenever possible.

The UK’s 5.8 million small firms and sole traders need support now, so that they can survive, adapt and support their local communities and customers in the future.