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Coronavirus: North and north-east firms welcome reopening but fear they will still struggle until office workers return

Union Street in Aberdeen.
Union Street in Aberdeen.

Business recovery from the coronavirus pandemic across the north and north-east is expected to take years, despite the first steps being taken next month.

Calls have been made to shop local once stores open their doors again in April while traders get back on their feet following lockdown.

However, concerns persist it will take much longer for trade to return to normal while town centre offices remain empty with a phased return to offices not expected until late June – with expectations some firms may permanently adopt home working arrangements.

Ian Cukrowski of MacBeans in Aberdeen said: “I think the announcement will certainly give people that hope that we are heading towards something more normal, but I also think there may be a major reluctance for people to head back to offices after spending a year at home and it working.

Ian Cukrowski, owner of Macbeans on Belmont Street.

“At the start of the pandemic we obviously lost a lot sales from office workers, but we have been quite lucky with people drinking tea and coffee at their homes.”

Inverness Chamber of Commerce said it would continue to support businesses through the reopening phase amid a recovery expected to take years.

Chief executive Stewart Nicol said: “There is a lot of experience of how to re-open businesses safely and appropriately. As we re-engage socially and with face-to-face community and business activity we will have to do that with some degree of caution.

“The support the UK and Scottish governments have provided have obviously been vital and mitigated some of the costs but it has not replaced normal income and we will see business failures and reorientations as we go through this.

Lockdown dates: Return to ‘as much normality as possible’ by summer

“I’m optimistic for the future but it’s going to be challenging.”

Highland Council has stressed public compliance with health guidelines is just as critical as businesses familiarising themselves with controls.

Environmental health manager Alan Yates said: “Ensuring Covid controls are both implemented and adhered to will be the best way in which to help minimise the spread of Covid-19 within the Highlands and protect public health as the restrictions are gradually lifted.”

Elgin’s business improvement district has said it is “delighted” with the Scottish Government announcement that retail can start reopening from next month.

The organisation has been running a social media competition to showcase town centre firms and encourage people to shop local.

Elgin High Street.

Meanwhile, Moray Council has said it currently does not have any plans to reintroduce the controversial Spaces For People street closures that were used last year.

A spokeswoman said: “We encourage residents to shop local wherever possible.

“Although there are no current plans to reintroduce Spaces For People measures, we’ll be guided by the asks of our local business communities, and any emerging Scottish Government guidance.”

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