BUSINESSES around Whitchurch are gearing up for what is typically the busiest time of the year – while waiting to hear what tier they will be in when England emerges from lockdown next week.

A new tier system will come into force when the lockdown ends on December 2, giving businesses new rules to work to during the vital Christmas trading period.

Hilary Seward from Whitchurch Chamber of Trade and owner of Interior Bliss, says small businesses have shown tenacity and resilience by sticking together.

She said: “Whitchurch as a business of small independent businesses need more than ever to pull together through 2021 and beyond to support each other and market Whitchurch as a small unique and beautiful market town with lots to offer.

“We have all learned a lot and small towns have a great opportunity to thrive as people shy away from larger shopping retail parks and busy city centres.

“It will be easier and more efficient to work as a team and promote the businesses and what is on offer, than to try to go it alone.

“Landlords may have lost money, but still going forwards sensible rents and helping struggling shops will keep the town vibrant and busy. This is for the long term, not just for Christmas.”

In smaller towns such as Whitchurch, local business competitions have been successful in encouraging people back into the high street.

“The Chamber of Trade is looking to regroup and help,” added Hilary.

“The Scarecrow competition prizes of cash vouchers to spend in Whitchurch are just a beginning.

“Also perhaps we can team up with the Council to create a new and fit for purpose website to help us achieve the best results for Whitchurch and the many new & existing residents.”

It is not just high street businesses that have been affected, with rural industries also impacted.

Tullis Matson of Stallion AI at Twemlows Farm says that although his international trade has taken a hit, the domestic business has grown successfully.

“We’ve had an alright year,” said Tullis. “It’s been difficult with the team and the restrictions in place.

“But one thing we have noticed is more people are buying British,” he said.

“Our exports are down but our UK sales are up, so we feel more people are looking towards buying British.”

The unexpected popularity of the company’s webinars, which launched in May, has helped the company through.

“One thing we have had to do is these webinars,” added Tullis. “For Thursday 843 people have already signed up, done 11 webinars raise 3.5 k for chairty.

“We have never done one before and now we have done 11 since May and raised £2,500 for charity as well.

“Over the 11 webinars we have had 7,500 people tune in from 54 countries.”

“We show the educational side and what we do here as well as all the science side. It’s all live so sometimes its a bit risque.

“It’s reached all over the world.

“We’ve had to adapt like everybody has to reach out in a different way.

“We had to cancel out our open day for the first time in 15 years which was disappointing but the webinars have been really successful.”

The wedding industry has been hit hard by the Covid restrictions this year, but many have adapted to the new normal.

Hawkstone Hall has changed the way it operates, as marketing manager Carly Roberts explains.

“We were doing weddings with 30 guests after lockdown one and then we dropped down to 15,” she said.

“We had some postponements, but they fit nicely into our schedule for 2021.

“Between the lockdowns, we’ve had four or five Covid-secure weddings which have had a great feel to them.

“We’re looking forward to the day that we can host bigger weddings again.”

“We going to motor along and take our lead from the bride and groom; if they want to have a Covid-19 secure wedding then great but we’re happy to postpone too.”