From surviving to thriving: The businesses in the East 'booming' during lockdown

It's been two weeks since non-essential shops reopened, but it's been an incredibly tough period for many businesses who were forced to close for much of the last year.

The hospitality and retail sector are among those who have been particularly affected.

For some businesses it has been a struggle, but for others it's never been busier. 

Before the pandemic, Avi Kniznik from Suffolk worked as a wedding photographer for 12 years.

When the industry shut down, he started baking bagels with his children and selling them door to door.

Business is now booming, with the bagels selling out every week since June.

The first Saturday I was open for business, I was hoping just to get ten customers, I think I did about 22, and from then upwards up until today, we sell out every Saturday. It has just gone so crazy, we have expanded, it has grown. It has flipped around and now the weddings will be part time and the baking will be full time.

Avi Kniznik, Owner, Bagel or Biegel
Model Ted Pullin at Blakely HQ in Norfolk Credit: Gareth Newman

With more people at home, consumer spending habits changed overnight, with many turning to apps and websites.

In the last year, sales went up by 45% for online retailers, which has been welcome news for many, including Gareth Newman who runs his own clothing company in Norfolk.

Blakely was founded in 2010, and in the last year, sales have grown by 120%.

The pandemic has helped boost the brand and the company have now moved into a new 39,000 square foot warehouse, as demand grows.

  • Watch full interview with ITV Anglia's Raveena Ghattaura and Blakely's Gareth Newman

"Peoples buying behaviours have certainly changed over the last few years and that appears to have been accelerated because of Covid", Gareth added.

"Our growth is very much down to the team we’ve grown. Every single one of them are top of their fields. We as a business are always adjusting, always pushing to be the best version of ourselves, always striving to improve and we never settle. They’ve taken Covid in their stride because of this exact culture.""They’re used to adjusting to challenges because of the market place we’re in, so then when Covid was thrown into the mix we approached it just like any other challenge and worked out a way to overcome it."

Shops re-opened on April 12. Credit: ITV Anglia

Even before the pandemic and economic crisis, high street retailers had been fighting a fierce battle against online brands.

But experts believe there is still hope for our high streets and say this year is going to be "one of the best for retail and hospitality."

"The non essential shops that have just opened are feeling very excited about this summer because there is every evidence that people have gone back to the shops" said Professor Joshua Bamfield from the Centre for Retail Research.

"If people can't go on holiday abroad they will obviously be spending money in the UK, and that should provide a boost for retail of about £3bn. That's good news for east Anglia and other tourist destinations.

"I am sure people will go out and will be spending. On average people may have around £8,000 saved up, with people not having to pay to commute, go on foreign holidays and eat out."