High streets across the south some of the worst hit by Covid pandemic, but can they recover?

ITV Meridian's James Dunham looks at the impact on high streets across the south

New figures released have revealed high streets across the south east have been seriously affected by the pandemic with some towns losing more than six months worth of high street sales. 

According to the report from 'Centre for Cities' Chatham in Kent, Crawley and Brighton in Sussex, and Southampton in Hampshire are among the worst hit.

Oxford city centre has been described as the worst hit in the country for an increase in store vacancy rates.

Many months of closures and fewer tourists have created a devastating combination for high streets.

Southampton's lost 38 weeks of sales because of the pandemic, in Worthing 17 weeks have been lost while in Brighton, Crawley and Aldershot - 28 weeks.

Dorothy Martin, Rice Up Wholefoods

Dorothy Martin has been at Rice Up Wholefoods since it opened 8 years ago, and says footfall has dropped since the pandemic started.

"During the first lockdown, Southampton was like a ghost town. We closed at 4pm because there was no-one around after 4 o'clock.

"It is a struggle to pay everything at the moment. The cost of everything has gone up, and obviously we're not as busy.

Oxford city centre has been described as the worst hit in the country for an increase in store vacancy rates

Christian Gyuricza owns two businesses in Oxford's covered market. He said the pandemic was a struggle as they rely on daytime trade from international tourists.

He said: "During the pandemic there was an immediate sharp drop in tourism, and in students as they weren't around. It's been very bad.

Verity Piggott is Director of family run greengrocers, Bonners in Oxford. She said "It's been horrendous. We lost everything overnight.

"We've had to adjust our business, and everyone thinks because you have moved to online shopping, that you make lots of money during Covid, but no we haven't.

"We were working from 6 in the morning until 10 at night to try and make sure people had food on the table. We had to adjust our business overnight and get the home deliveries out there.

"It hasn't really gone back to normal yet.

Verity Piggott, Bonners Oxford

John Jerome owns Edgar Jerome in Aldershot. The shop opened on 10 March 1923, and he said he's surprised the shop has survived as long as it has.

"I started in 1969, and there must have been between 20 and 30 menswear shops in the town. Our little shop was lucky and it survived.

"If people can't get to the shop, I'll go out to visit them.

"During lockdown we are ran on minimum staff, and I was out delivering and keeping the books straight from home.

"I look around our own town, and question how a little shop like mine survives almost a hundred years.

"There are so many empties. We are the last menswear shop. And there are very few womenswear shops in the town.

"If you walk around Aldershot, every other shop is empty.

"The renovation for the town centre should be ready for 2024, and hopefully that will bring some life back into the town."