The coronavirus (Covid-19) has spread to nearly every country in the world since it first emerged in China at the beginning of the year. More than 6.6 million people are known to be infected and more than 391,000 deaths have been recorded – including 39,904 in the UK, the world’s second highest death-rate.
In March 2020, the UK government imposed a lock-down, banning all “non-essential” travel and contact with people outside one’s home (including family and partners), and shutting almost all schools, business, venues, facilities, amenities and places of worship. Those with symptoms, and their household, were told to self-isolate, while the most vulnerable (the over 70’s and those with certain illnesses) were told to shield themselves. People were made to keep apart in public. Police were empowered to enforce the lock-down, and the Coronavirus Act 2020 gave the government emergency powers not used since the Second World War.
This has been an extremely painful time for communities across the UK and beyond, many small and medium-sized businesses are already feeling its effects. One story at a time, we reached out to our local community to see how the coronavirus has affected their business.
Lock-down was a few days away, my other half and I had just got the keys to our new home which meant all of our savings were now invested in our new place, which was an amazing achievement! But the overwhelming feeling of panic kicked in. I cried to myself pretty much all weekend, worrying about how I’d support my family and my 18-month-old son.
I realised that occasions and weddings were all about to be cancelled or postponed and no one would need a dress for the foreseeable future. This meant no income for me, brides weren’t able to pay their balances on their bridesmaids’ dresses and most of all, no one would be placing any new orders.
My partner’s days had been cut down from 5 to 3 days a week which meant less income from his end too and with a new mortgage to pay alongside bills and expenses, it was super scary! (Thank god for the mortgage holiday!).
It was by the end of march I’d decided to take a literal leap of faith into the unknown and improvise. I put a poll on my Instagram regarding potential new lounge-wear sets for sale and asked everyone to answer genuinely and they did! I had a 95% positive response claiming they would definitely buy a set to support my small business. This overwhelmed me in such a positive way and far more than the original panic I had.
I was so humbled by everyone’s support and before you knew it, the orders came rolling in! In 6 weeks, I’ve made nearly 50 sets, released different styles and lengths along with different fabrics and prints.
I’ve had such positive feedback from all the sets, people have said they love the fabric and the fit and the way it holds them in. I’ve been using bandage stretch fabrics which has great thickness and quality. I’ve definitely turned an amazing corner in my business and I’ve seen so many other business owners doing the same. I love seeing people making the most of an uncertain situation and turning a negative into a positive.
HAMPDEN DENTAL & AESTHETICS CLINIC
During the pandemic, as a practice the most difficult thing has been not being able to help our wonderful patients face to face when they may need us the most!
From the most common tooth ache to more rarer symptoms, it has been a challenging time for our patients and us. We have had to follow strict guidelines but we have been available for telephone consultations 7 days a week and it has been a really valuable option for both our dentists and patients to provide advice and electronic prescriptions as necessary. We have enjoyed volunteering our time to help some of our shielded patients with food or their essential item deliveries. It has been a pleasure to help where we can.
We already have extremely high standards of cross infection control and use various forms of PPE daily, however whilst we are in the midst of this pandemic, we have made changes to increase the level of PPE, and the way our patients will visit the practice. So, once we are able to reopen, for a short while, we will not be able to have a good chat and cup of tea with our patients in the waiting area like we sometimes do!
It has been a difficult time for everyone, however our main concern throughout has been that everyone stays safe. When we are allowed to fully reopen, we cannot wait to welcome our new and existing patients to our brand-new clinic – located just next door to the old one! We also thought the move would be a good time to make a small tweak to our name – we look forward to welcoming you all back to Hampden Dental & Aesthetics Clinic.
At the time of writing this, our store will have been closed for nine weeks. Like everyone else, we have adapted getting used to the new normal – whether it be figuring out a new routine whilst furloughed, or continuing to work behind the scenes to connect with our community virtually and preparing how Pearsons will look when the doors re-open in a few weeks’ time.
As a small business, we have always understood and appreciated our community – the loyal customers that would frequently visit Pearsons, our team recognising their familiar faces as they shopped or popped in for a bite to eat in our café or restaurant – and so we felt it was our duty to support our customers during this strange time.
Throughout lock-down, the digital world has been our superpower – on social and our pop-up blog we have shared inspiration and mood-boosting tips to help fill days – with stylists spilling their secrets on dressing up to feel good whilst at home, our beauty expert offering escapism with skincare advice and a London-based food blogger creating delicious recipes for our customers who have been enjoying spending more time in the kitchen. We even delved into Pearsons’ archives and shared a photo of the store as it was in 1903 which sparked nostalgic conversation between local residents sharing their personal memories of the store.
We are so excited that we’ll soon be able to welcome customers back to Pearsons. Yes, it will look and feel different, but we know that as a close-knit community we’ll come together to make it work. Our team has been working incredibly hard to create a comfortable in-store experience so that you can shop safely when you are ready.
Check out Pearsons’ website for food, fashion and beauty inspiration.
THE VILLAGE FACTORY
At the start of this pandemic it was evident retail stores would be one of the first to close. As a manufacturer for women’s clothing brand River Island, there were no ‘working from home’ options for us.
On the 23rd of March the Prime Minister announced the closing of businesses and lock-down had begun, making all of our staff furloughed. Within a few days, “Is there enough PPE?” became the nations most asked question. It had been plastered all over the news and social media, there wasn’t enough tools to help our NHS heroes do their jobs safely.
The British government had admitted a shortage of crucial masks and gowns for healthcare staff as it faced mounting criticism from doctors and medical workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. NHS Providers, a body that represents hospitals and other parts of Britain’s publicly funded National Health Service, said supply levels of gowns were critical.
As we contemplated how and if we could help, we received an impromptu video meeting from River Island, who advised that they would be donating scrubs to Great Ormond Street Hospital in an attempt to help the nation.
Within days we were back in the factory, making sure the health guidance’s were met and all machines had a 2m distance. Using our facilities and capabilities, we never thought the factory would be in this situation, to even be a small part of the heroism and helping the NHS save lives.
Our staff were so pleased to be able to offer their services to the nation. For us, the pandemic has possibly opened a new avenue. You really do a feel a sense of purpose when you know you are helping in some way or another to put an end to this disaster.
PALMERS GREEN HIGH SCHOOL
Along with all schools nationwide, PGHS closed its doors on Monday 23rd March to protect the girls, staff and their families; however, in all other respects, we remained fully open.
We specialise in educating girls, and have continued to do so throughout the pandemic. The school moved all of its teaching and learning online and now operates through Microsoft Teams. The girls from Year 4 upwards are following a full timetable with the younger girls using a modified version that better suits their learning needs. Staff are delivering live lessons in a range of very interactive and creative ways. Work is being set, submitted, marked and feedback given. All of which means that the staff and the girls know exactly where they are with their learning, just as they would if school were open. We are all very proud of the girls and feel confident that their learning is in an excellent place and they have not fallen behind during this period of school closure.
Pastoral Care is also something we pride ourselves on and daily form time sessions, one-to-one and small group meetings with a teacher, regular assemblies and ‘Friday Fundays’ mean that the high level of care and attention given when pupils are physically in school has been maintained even when working at a distance.
We are now beginning to welcome back the younger girls to school in a well prepared, careful and sensible way to ensure that the school can remain as safe as possible for all of us. A full Risk Assessment and Staff, Pupil and Parent Protocols have been written. This is an exciting moment and one that enables us to look ahead to September.
We are not sure when we will be able to have visitors into our school again for personal tours or Open Mornings. However, we did manage to film some short videos just before we closed to enable prospective parents to view the school remotely and to provide our new pupils joining us in September with an insight into school life which you can view at www.pghs.co.uk/admissions/virtual-tours/
The pandemic at first paved the way for anxiety to creep in with the looming questions and uncertainty it festered. This wasn’t made better with the continuous media streams from all angles focused on Covid-19. There came a point I avoided watching the news and browsing social media. The constant bombardment of information and rising death count affected me emotionally.
Adding to the confusion was lack of knowledge and contrasting opinions from “experts” early on. I felt it second to war and famine, none of which I ever want to experience. It was a stark reminder how destructive our species can be and what a pig’s ear we’ve made of our planet. On this occasion, nature struck back which reminded me of a Native American proverb, “we don’t inherit land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.
That said, there’s always a silver lining. Months and years leading up to lock-down proved a very challenging time for me. Events in my personal and professional life lead to stress and anxiety. The non-stop lifestyle had minor health implications. By stopping, I had the opportunity to reflect, relax and take full advantage that my commitments just disappeared overnight. I even treated myself to a few lie ins and binge watching. Day to day tasks were taken in my stride. It gave me the opportunity to get in touch with myself and re-discover old hobbies.
Once in a new routine, and without distraction, my productivity levels sky rocketed and was able to inject some creativity into the Evese brand. Despite sales slowing, a relationship with customers was maintained by responding to their needs – valuable information I can use moving forward. Some new marketing strategies were implemented, none of which would’ve been possible in a pre-COVID time frame. To conclude, being put in a compromising position reminds you how sweet life can be.