Visit Worcester has been supporting businesses in the city as they emerge from lockdown and re-open. Here, Sam McCarthy, of Worcester BID, which partners with Worcester City Council on the Visit Worcester project, discusses the challenges ahead, and traders talk about their experiences.

Sam: "It is on us to keep Worcester open, healthy and safe. There’s a feeling of relief from residents, businesses, and visitors as we begin to get our freedom back and start to create our new normal.

"Worcester’s independent businesses are the heart of our faithful city and the true leaders in innovation when it comes to adapting their business models to take care of their customers and employees.

"July is independent retailer month and now more then ever they need your support. If every person in the county spent £10 in an independent business, it would inject more than £5million into the local economy.

"Worcester is bucking national trends for independents. The independents are the future of the High Street and this is what will set Worcester apart and allow the city to flourish again, where cities elsewhere are struggling.

“Before Covid the High Street was evolving and place managers across the country were beginning to see a trend for people choosing to shop local. The lockdown appears to have accelerated this evolution by about five years."

The Visit Worcester partnership formed by Worcester BID and Worcester City Council has been working tirelessly throughout the lockdown to support the recovery of the city centre.

Helen Mole, tourism and city centre manager from Worcester City Council, said: “Since the beginning of lockdown, we’ve been working on a number of projects designed to support the economic recovery of the city. We want to support local businesses to re-open safely as well as helping residents to feel safe enough to visit our local shopping areas again. Worcester looks forward to welcoming you back. All we ask is that you are kind, respectful and play your role to keep Worcester open, healthy and safe. It is on us.”

Kidderminster Shuttle:

MonsterHero Safari

Visit Worcester is providing a family fun ‘Safari’ high street story-trail, to help spread joy, support the NHS and give families a safe reason to return to the high street.

Families and households in Worcestershire will be invited to search the streets for 10 cute and colourful MonsterHeroes. Using only your smartphone, the Safari allows you to learn each MonsterHero’s name, story, and superpowers.

Once all 10 MonsterHeroes are found, a free e-book, telling the story of their first team-up, will be unlocked. The Safari works by utilising contactless NFC technology and QR codes, without the need for players to download or sign up to anything - they simply need to tap or scan to play. The Safari aims to bring some sort of normality back to high streets and will be an effective opportunity to entertain and excite shoppers. It’s a fun way to help increase high street footfall while ensuring the safety of the public.

Over 100 places across the UK are taking part in the MonsterHero Safari project, which has been sponsored by Wild in Art, with the aim of raising funds to support the NHS charities.

Sam McCarthy said: “The MonsterHero Safari trail allows families to revisit the city centre safely, observing social distancing while exploring our heritage and independent businesses. The trail adds an element of fun and excitement in our city throughout the summer holidays, giving parents the perfect activity to entertain the whole family.”

See visitworcester.co.uk for more.

The Kings and Mangojuice galleries in New Street, Worcester re-opened on June 16.

A spokesman said: "Closing our door on the last Saturday afternoon when the lockdown began and not knowing when we would be allowed to open again was very sad, especially as some of our regular customers and artists have become friends who would just pop in for a chat from time to time.

"Much of our work is supplied by individual craftspeople who rely heavily on galleries for their income and we were very concerned whether they would survive the lockdown. We have used social media to try and stay in touch with our customers and have used our time in lockdown to improve our online presence and set up our online shop.

"Sadly, we have seen many other independent businesses in the town centre close down recently, but as we offer a unique mix of artwork and UK handmade gifts we feel we are in a strong position to ride out the storm.

"We are particularly grateful for the financial support offered to small businesses by the government that has enabled us to survive the lockdown and are hopeful that we will slowly return to some kind of normality. Being in one of the historic streets we normally benefit from tourism and we are looking forward to visitors returning to Worcester again as well as welcoming back our regular customers."

Kidderminster Shuttle:

Mark Rasdall, who runs Mr Simms Olde Sweete Shop in the High Street

"After a typically slow January, independent retailers in Worcester then had to face the February floods which meant that half-term, Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday sales were all but wiped out.

"With the emergence of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown we then had to write off thousands of pounds of Easter stock, quite apart from facing 11 weeks without any sales. But we were lucky enough to be alive!

"Our first response was to build brochure pages on our website – www.mrsimmsworcester.co.uk – so that customers could see the sweets and gifts we offer, along with a delivery service that we shall continue to provide. We’ll deliver packages around the city for free, providing the sale is for £10 or above. We use Hermes for sweet deliveries further afield.

"We have also developed a click n’ collect service which has been very popular, and, again, just contact us on mrsimmsworcester@gmail.com and we’ll do the rest.

"Doorstep sales also proved popular during the last few Saturdays before we could re-open. We now have our risk assessment and social distancing measures in place, as well as a lovely new range of fudges and chocolate to welcome our loyal customers back to the High Street."

Kidderminster Shuttle:

Tim and Vicky Evans, of Toys and Games of Worcester in Broad Street

"Our business was formed in 1994 and is used to constant change and having to adapt, but the pandemic was and is our biggest challenge yet. As a small business we can react quickly. We increased our use of Facebook and YouTube to stay in touch with our customers and it wasn't long before we were delivering jigsaws, Lego, model kits glues and paints, games and all sorts across the city.

"Customers were fantastic, the support, gifts, smiling faces and snatched conversations from the pavements will never be forgotten.

We are still accepting telephone orders and delivering any order over £25 within 24 hours (WR1-WR5) in our own van . We have also developed our website so we now load all new products when they come into stock. (ToysWorcester.co.uk)

"We are still predominately a physical toy shop and never want to stop, we value our interactions with our friends, neighbours and visitors too much to ever lose that part of the business. We remain committed to the future of city centre and to our community."

Worcester Bid is supporting our Love Local Business campaign, which encourages our readers to spend their money locally to help traders recover from lockdown.

Campaign sponsors include Crowngate Shopping Centre, Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, the University of Worcester, Visit Worcester, Tom Cook Carpets, Worcester City Council, Worcester BID and Worcestershire Business Central.

To get involved, contact Dale Godliman on 01905 742372 or dale.godliman@localiq.co.uk