By Kevin Smith
Business owners in Bognor Regis have been urged to go online to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Jason Passingham, the chairman of the town’s business improvement district (BID), said it was essential those who served customers in the town centre adapted to meet the current challenging conditions.
“We understand the present situation is really hard,” he said. “All the directors of the BID are in the same boat.
“Most of us are small independent traders and we have to do what we can to survive as businesses.
“We have to think about adapting our businesses. I would urge anyone who hasn’t got a social media presence to set one up to ensure they can attract customers who are heeding the government’s advice and staying indoors.
“They could stay in contact by email. It could also be a case of starting a delivery service to take the goods to the customers rather than the customers coming to the premises.
“I know one business which is opening later but working later in the evening with home deliveries.
“The BID is actively pursuing a way to enable all of our businesses to sell their goods online, and ways to partner with local delivery services to make sure we can get their goods to people’s homes.”
Mr Passingham said the government’s advice earlier this week for people to stop non-essential contact with others was going to have a massive impact on the town’s businesses. This was especially the case for small independents who might lack the cash reserves to stay afloat.
Because the pandemic was unprecedented, the BID was doing its best to keeping up to date with the constantly shifting information to find out the available support, especially for small businesses, to enable them to continue.
“One of the biggest problems we have is the uncertainty,” said Mr Passingham. “No-one knows how long this is going to last.
“But we have cancelled all our Easter programme and our 2020 vision has also had to be scrapped.
“We are trying to stay positive, though. We are looking at holding a series of events because we need to get people back into the town centre as soon as possible when this situation has ended.
“We have some ideas to make Christmas special but we still need to be in the best possible position as a town centre to make the rest of the year as successful as we can.”
One town centre shop which has started a delivery service is London Road-based Unique Knit and Sew.
It owner, Paul Wells, said: “People should try to keep shopping locally.
“We have been offering free delivery on all orders to customers in the Bognor Regis area from Monday.
“Customers can place their orders through our website or can telephone orders through.
“If someone is self-isolating for any reason, we’d just ask that they let us know of their situation and where they would like their delivery to be left if they are unable to get to the door.”