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Shop Local: Ilford Town Centre businesses hit hard by coronavirus first wave fear looming second lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:06 22 October 2020

Zoe Nisbet and George Balisani at General Havelock pub. Picture: Roy Chacko

Zoe Nisbet and George Balisani at General Havelock pub. Picture: Roy Chacko

Archant

We come to you on a mission – to encourage you to support your local independent businesses.

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Our high streets are the life blood of our communities and they are in trouble – not simply from internet shopping but due to the consequences of Covid-19.

We want to help so each week will be out in a different area of Redbridge talking to the local independent traders and telling their stories.

And we hope you can help by giving them your custom.

Some Ilford Town Centre businesses fear the prospect of another lockdown might be the final nail in the coffin for them.

Stylist Arminder Kaur at Fami Hair and Beauty. Picture: Farah AzizStylist Arminder Kaur at Fami Hair and Beauty. Picture: Farah Aziz

As the borough has moved into Tier 2 (High) town centre businesses that barely managed to survive the first lockdown are worried about how much their takings have gone down with current restrictions in place and fears for the months ahead leading into Christmas.

George Balisani who has owned the General Havelock pub, which is across the High Road from Redbridge Town Hall, for more than seven years said that now he needs to close at 10pm his takings have been hit severely - down 70 per cent.

In normal times his pub has a late licence that allows him to stay open until 2am. So he now loses four hours of much-needed business.

Pre-Covid a lot of customers came in from 10.30pm onwards when young people would stop in on their night out before hitting the town.

General Havelock pub's takings have been down 70 per cent so far this year. Picture: Roy ChackoGeneral Havelock pub's takings have been down 70 per cent so far this year. Picture: Roy Chacko

He told the Recorder: “Now when you walk around here at 10pm it’s like a ghost town.”

Since the start of the pandemic he has been forced to lay off seven members of staff and said if the pub is forced to close again for another lockdown and without adequate support from the government, the pub will be on the verge of collapsing.

“We cannot survive like this, we cannot cope.

“It’s very gloomy and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Businesses need security and it’s not there.

Even though Fami Hair and Beauty has gone through the process to keep everyone safe customers are still fearful of coming in with infection rates rising in Redbridge. Picture: Farah AzizEven though Fami Hair and Beauty has gone through the process to keep everyone safe customers are still fearful of coming in with infection rates rising in Redbridge. Picture: Farah Aziz

“I don’t know how we are going to come back, it’s a fight for survival.”

George supports his family of five and his manager Zoe Nisbet, one of the only staff members he’s managed to keep on, supports her eight-year-old daughter.

Zoe said: “Eventually my hours will get cut, he will have to. And then I’m going to suffer as well, and then my child will suffer.

“I really don’t think the government understand that.”

The pub normally has a late licence to close at 2am but now needs to close at 10pm, cutting off much-needed business. Picture: Roy ChackoThe pub normally has a late licence to close at 2am but now needs to close at 10pm, cutting off much-needed business. Picture: Roy Chacko

Farah Aziz, who owns Fami Hair and Beauty in Belgrave Road said business picked up as soon as she was able to finally re-open in the middle of August, after three date changes from the government.

Now with fears of the infection rate being so high in Redbridge even her regulars have stopped coming in.

She described her current business as “dead quiet”.

Even though she has followed the guidelines to keep her shop Covid-secure she says people are just scared to come out with fears of the second wave and the looming threat of another lockdown.

Stylex Menswear has been a staple in Chapel Road for the last 42 years. Picture: Google MapsStylex Menswear has been a staple in Chapel Road for the last 42 years. Picture: Google Maps

Her worries for her business have unintentionally trickled down to her twin nine-year-old girls who told her not to spend money on a Halloween costume or Christmas decorations this year.

“When my daughter said to me not to spend the money on their Halloween costumes, something I’ve been doing all their lives, that really broke my heart.

“Diwali is next month and we normally have a big party for that and a big party at Christmas but now we won’t be able to do any of that.”

Stylex Menswear has been a staple family-run business in Chapel Road for the past 42 years but with formal wear normally accounting for half of their sales, their business has been particularly hit hard.

Jay Shah, who runs the shop with his dad, said: “A lot of our trade is selling suits and wedding season was basically non-existent this year.

“Also people have a lot less need to buy new clothes if they’re not going to the pub or parties after work.”

He said their business has been able to hold on thanks to a loyal clientele who have been coming to their shop for years.

“Since my dad started the shop he’s seen customers grow up and then start bringing in their kids.”

Farah said as much as she worries how her business can survive throughout this difficult period she is putting it into perspective and keeping in mind the positive things she has in her life.

She said: “These past few months a few of our neighbours have got cancer and I’ve known a few people who have caught Covid, so I’m just lucky my husband, my two girls and I all have our health.

“I’m just praying we all stay healthy.”

Next week we will be in Wanstead. If you have an independent shop there and would like a mention and to tell your story, contact adriana.elgueta@archant.co.uk


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