MP Ian Liddell-Grainger is calling on his constituents to show all-out support for local businesses once the country’s high streets are open again.
He says many smaller enterprises will still be struggling financially despite generous Government support programmes during lockdown and will need all the help they can get to stay afloat.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, Conservative member for Bridgwater and West Somerset, says a further, just-announced major cash injection will go a long way towards stimulating the return to normal trading.
Sedgemoor council is to receive £109,807 and Somerset West and Taunton Council £138,806 under the Welcome Back Fund, designed to underwrite the safe reopening of shopping centres.
But the MP says how rapidly town centre traders recover will ultimately depend on people’s shopping habits.
“The Government and local authorities will be doing their utmost to ensure people feel safe, protected and comfortable once they can go shopping again but the real question is how much trade shops are going to enjoy,” he said.
“Many households have turned to online shopping during the lockdown months and have found it a very convenient way of acquiring both essentials and luxuries.
“But I would hate to think that online shopping becomes the norm. Proper shopping is a great British social activity and human presence is what adds dynamism and character to high streets. We lose that element at our peril.
“I am afraid people are going to discover there have been many casualties when the high streets reopen for business. There will be empty premises left by businesses which have not been able to survive, despite the best efforts of their owners and the Government.
“But unless we see a mass return of shoppers to our town centres there are very real fears that that blight could continue to spread.
“High street traders have, wherever possible, done their best to look after their customers with phone and online ordering and home deliveries while face-to-face shopping has been off the agenda. Now the nation is getting back to normal I should very much like to see that loyalty repaid many times over.”