Coronavirus: Romford BID director says it is ‘more important’ than ever to support shops as they re-open

PUBLISHED: 17:00 10 June 2020

Julie Frost, director of Romford Business Improvement District.

Julie Frost, director of Romford Business Improvement District.


Havering’s Business Improvement Districts have highlighted the varying challenges facing their members both during and emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.

London Riverside BID chair Eric Mollison. Picture: London Riverside BIDLondon Riverside BID chair Eric Mollison. Picture: London Riverside BID

The borough has two such organisations, which aim to support businesses in a locality and improve the commercial area.

Romford BID launched last year and is active in the town centre, which includes the main shopping precincts.

The Government has announced that all non-essential shops can reopen from Monday (June 15), and BID director Julie Frost confirmed this is now a key focus.

She said: “It requires businesses to pay close attention to the new Government guidelines to ensure they meet all requirements in order to open and keep their staff and customers safe as restrictions begin to ease.

“Concern has been raised with regards to how queues are going to be managed and we are in dialogue with Havering Council and Trading Standards to ensure necessary procedures will be in place where needed.

“Alongside this will be extra signage reminding people of the need for social distancing.”

Julie outlined three reasons why people should support local shops once restrictions are lifted - community, economics and the environment.

She said: “A local shopping centre like Romford (and other smaller centres around the borough) is about more than just a place to buy goods and services, it is about it being a space at the heart of community.

“It is a place where we can meet and interact with our family, neighbours, co-workers, and friends. It is where our local heritage and our sense of being part of a place is established.”

The Romford resident said economics cannot be ignored and that it is “more important” than ever that people support their local high street.

“Unless tills are ringing in the Romford branches of Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, the Romford Shopping Hall etc these shops become unviable businesses and the company will simply close the store – leaving another hole in our high street.”

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Shopping locally rather than at out-of-town shopping centres can improve the environment as people can walk, cycle or use public transport rather than going by car, she added.

Many people have been working from home during the pandemic and Julie confirmed the BID will consider its response to office-based businesses potentially reducing or leaving offices once it is over.

She admitted that many Havering businesses have been struggling since the crisis began and said the business improvement levy was removed for three months to help.

The London Riverside BID in Rainham is contrasting in that its members are centred around an industrial area.

It has more than 300 businesses within the BID boundaries, ranging from commercial giants such as Tesco to a number of micro businesses.

Manufacturers, engineering firms, logistics and distribution companies and technology firms are among those in the area.

A BID spokesperson said more than 70 per cent of its members closed their doors during the pandemic, with the rest adapting their operations.

They added that many members are ineligible for Government grant schemes and have to come up with their own solutions.

BID chair Eric Mollison said: “The BID has responded by maintaining essential services in the BID area and we’re very grateful to members who have continued to pay their BID levy so we can keep the area safe, secure and maintained.

“Our members are doing their part. Some, such as Hambro Roofing and Sharp Skips, donated their spare PPE in the early days.

“Others have adapted their operations so they are able to work safely and include several that are making, importing and distributing essential products like PPE, cleaning and sanitation products, screening and signage.”

He praised Havering Council for its support for companies in communicating essential information, processing grants quickly where eligible and helping business owners through the “complexity and anxiety of what we’re all facing”.

The BID spokesperson said it hopes the Government keeps a “close eye” on how industry comes out of the Covid-19 crisis, adding: “The industrial sector will continue to thrive in the medium term and will play a key role in providing economic growth and employment opportunities for our local community.

“But we hope that Government does not lose sight of the need to listen to industry bodies and to respond quickly and decisively with policy and financial measures.”

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