BUSINESS and civic leaders across Wiltshire have applauded the Gazette’s Backing Business Campaign, aimed at getting people to help save our Wiltshire High Streets.

Many shops, restaurants and other businesses have had to try and re-invent themselves during the coronavirus emergency while others have been forced to shut completely.

But now as restrictions are eased and firms are tentatively trying to get back to normal, the Gazette is asking readers to think local to give businesses a much needed boost.

Firms big and small have been hit by the virus crisis. Among those badly affected is Devizes brewer Wadworths which owns pubs across the county and further afield.

Chris Welham CEO of the family firm which has been operating since 1875, has had to make the difficult decision to put plans to open a new brewery on the outskirts of Devizes on hold. He said: “This is a great call by the Gazette. We are really looking forward to coming out of hibernation and are working up our plans to reopen our pubs wherever we can.

“Government is yet to publish its Covid Secure protocols but when we can reopen our doors, I’m hoping that we can recreate a similar hum and buzz once again, whilst keeping our teams and customers safe.

“We continue to brew so it’s been great to see people buying Wadworth beer via our online shop or through our visitor centre.

“Covid has changed the landscape for all of us and despite reducing our expenditure to the absolute minimum and utilising the support the government has provided businesses like ours, we have also had to increase our level of borrowing and use this and our available cash to survive. As a result, we are waiting on more detail from the government as to when our pubs can completely reopen.

“For the time being our new brewery plans have been postponed indefinitely”. There’s no doubt that it’s been a tough period for everyone, but if we can put a smile back on people’s faces by inviting customers back into their local pub soon, that will be a welcome step back to hopefully more “new” normalised times.”

Kathryn Crosweller, president of Chippenham Chamber of Commerce, said: “Now more than ever local businesses need support, because their position has never been more precarious.

“Whether it’s setting up an online shop, adapting their premises to meet social distancing requirements or branching out into new products and services, business owners are becoming poised for the return of their customers.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were greeted not only by their regulars but by a whole host of new local customers, too.”

Marlborough Mayor Mark Cooper said: “It’s great to hear that the Gazette and Herald is launching a back local business campaign and I fully support it.

“It’s been a tough and challenging time, particularly for shops, restaurants and cafes, all of which make up the heart and soul of town centres.

“In Marlborough some are open offering takeout deliveries and expanding online services. These are all innovative solutions that will help re-launch business in the town.The town council tourism officer is already reaching out to traders and working with them as Marlborough emerges from lockdown to welcome back customers in a safe environment.

“The initial emphasis is definitely on inviting local visitors, a sort of doorstep tourism. We all have a part to play in restoring the local economy and building up confidence in our amazing town and that starts at home with everyone buying from the wonderful local businesses.”

Devizes trader Iain Wallis from the Federation of Small Business said: “Small businesses make up the backbone of our market towns and communities across Wiltshire and right now many of them will be facing a very uncertain future.

“The Federation of Small Businesses conducted a national survey of over five thousand businesses and found that of those that had to close 35 per cent fear that they will never open again.

If we think about what that might look like on the ground a town like Devizes could lose over eighty town centre businesses which would have a devastating impact on the town from which it may never recover.”