The Winchester district has traditionally had a robust and diverse economy, but during the pandemic the council has focused on supporting those sectors affected the most.
We set up an advice hotline, produced regular e-bulletins, provided access to free business support, and quickly distributed £35 million in business grants.
When restrictions eased after the first lockdown, we produced Back to Business packs and posters for retailers, created outdoor seating areas, and ran a successful ‘Rediscover What’s on Your Doorstep’ campaign, driving up footfall. We built confidence with clear messaging and signage, and outdoor hand-sanitising units, and deployed COVID-19 ambassadors and marshals.
Many of our businesses were quick to embrace digital technology – with virtual tours of attractions, online festivals, and new take-away/delivery services – and we supported this with digital and print media promoting a ‘Support Local’ message.
Most recently we’ve teamed up with online specialists Digital Islands to help our high street businesses adapt and innovate. We’re now working to create a district-wide virtual high street, so residents can ‘shop local’ online, supporting the many independent businesses that make our district unique.
There is still plenty of uncertainty, but some changes may be good. The shift to home working will mean many more people will stay local, aiding a green recovery and helping us to reach our 2030 carbon-neutrality target. Winchester has been around since the days of King Alfred, and I’m confident the district will adapt.