Summer season vital as brands abandon Weston-super-Mare's high street

The Mayor of Weston-super-Mare has told ITV News he fears more shops will close in the town as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but insists the recovery is well underway.

Big brands continue to leave the town with jewellery chain H Samuel, Argos and BrightHouse shutting their stores in recent months. Most of the businesses had already planned to close before crisis. They follow the likes of Marks and Spencer and The Body Shop.

However Mayor Mark Canniford insists the summer season can still be a big success.

He says: "With the amount of visitors we get on the sea front if they get into town and enjoy the other parts of Weston we can find a real boost for the rest of the summer season. They need a boost after being closed for weeks and weeks. Without that boost it will still be a tough winter."

Nicky Ellis serving a customer at The Coffee House.

At independent shops like The Coffee House, Nicky Ellis and her team are almost back to full capacity. Takeaways have seen them through the worst of lockdown and trade has been steadily building.

She says: "When we were told to close the doors as an independent business which has been trading for ten years you do think am I ever going to be able to get back open. A lot of our customers are 70 plus so a lot of them are shielding, are they all going to come back out? You do have those concerns."

A few metres away is Walker and Ling, a department store that's been here for more than 120 years. But with fitting rooms closed and no way to try on clothes, returning to normal has been slow.

Sam Walker says: "We're trading at about 60 per cent of last year. With help from the government we're still able to trade. We're still functioning but I think summer is a write off. We'll start looking to autumn and winter next year."

The Weston Collective two weeks after opening its first store.

Despite several shops leaving, there has been one new arrival. Inside the Sovereign Shopping Centre is The Weston Collective. It opened two weeks ago and sells products from fourteen different independent traders. Jane admits it may seem like bad time to open a new business, but she believes it can succeed.

She says: "I worry as you would do as a small business. But I think we have the right mix of products, the right audience and we are totally unique in Weston. There's nothing like us in the town. So I think all of those things together will mean we are a success."

The Mayor and the council hopes shops like The Weston Collective could be the future of the high street, especially as more big brands choose to leave. And as the summer holidays get underway there is a sense this town will recover quickly, even if not every shop returns.