Coronavirus Updates

During the Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis we intend to post regular updates, opinion pieces and useful links for the business community.


Parking & Road Closures in Stroud

This short video explains how temporary measures have been taken in Stroud to make it safer when travelling to and from businesses; making it easier to be physically distanced in shared spaces such as on pavements. London Road has been closed to vehicles and some on-street parking suspended - the details of which are within the video. Together we can make shopping and visiting Stroud safer.

The situation changes at such a pace that keeping the website updated with all the information needed in a timely manner is very challenging. We urge you to follow our Stroud Chamber of Trade Facebook Page for the latest updates and announcements.

Tuesday 9 June 2020 - HELP

Look after your Mental Health

Government legislation, mass media coverage and the increasing global death toll will inevitably cause a lot of stress. 
This blog post, from rehab4addition.co.uk, may provide some helpful advice for you or someone you know.
This link is to a third party site. We accept no responsibility for the accuracy of the information and content of the site, though share it with you in good faith.


Saturday 6 June 2020 - RESOURCES

"Stroud Is Open" Directory Launched

The first edition of the "Stroud is Open" Directory showcases 74 business, with the date they will open (if not already open), their operating days and opening hours. Easy to recognise icons show whether the business offers takeaway, click-and-collect or ring-and-collect. It also links to their websites and Facebook pages, to access their latest updates.
As restrictions are lifted and businesses classed by the UK Government as "non essential" start to reopen, it's important visitors to Stroud can plan their visits based on the businesses they wish to go to. Understandably, given the challenges the pandemic poses, not all businesses will open at once and there will be reduced hours for some whilst business builds. The Directory serves to ensure the reader (who can download the Directory to a mobile device) can make informed decisions about the best time and day to visit.
Some customers will continue to shield, others keeping close to self-isolating protocols too. In acknowledgement of this, the Directory shows which businesses offer local delivery, including the Shop 'n' Drop cargo bike scheme and our own Stroud Delivers Local scheme. This ensures those who are staying at home can easily see the businesses that can serve them in our local community. 


Wednesday 13 March 2020 - ADVICE

Launch of the Welcome Back to Stroud Toolkit

Over the last 4 weeks, the Committee of Stroud Chamber of Trade has been working hard to create a Toolkit to help businesses understand and comply with sometimes complex restrictions, and be prepared for a time when they can open again, or open more fully. During this time we have also provided direct help and advice to many, helping them steer through and keep positive.

We don’t like the term “recovery plan” so much, so we think of it as the “Welcome Back to Stroud” Toolkit. Within it you will find collated resources, including social media graphics, posters to print and resource advice sheets to help you navigate through. The Committee believe that the success of our town depends on the success of us all and, as such, are releasing this toolkit to all businesses and not just those who are current members.

The kit contains actionable checklists, consumable advice, a helpful collection of posters to download and ready-to-go social media graphics.

 You can access it here.


Monday 23 March 2020 - OPINION

Furloughing - how does it work and will it work for me?

The announcement this evening that more categories of retail must close means more businesses looking for how to survive this hiatus. The Government 80% salary cover in the Job Retention Scheme is almost certainly the best option, as announced last week. It is there to help you pause your staffing bills until we start to come out of the Covid-19 crisis and provide your staff with heightened certainty of having a job to come back to.
The Job Retention Scheme is for employees who would otherwise have been laid off due to financial pressures. The pledge is to cover 80% of their wages, capped to a total of £2,500 per month per employee. 
How this will happen is still uncertain, at the time of writing, outside of us knowing businesses will need to identify and notify the individuals concerned. During the Furlough period they will not attend work nor work for others for the duration you employed them. Once the HMRC online portal is live (which at the time of writing it is not) you must register your Furloughed employees. There are no official timescales as to when the online portal will be available, but it is speculated to be early to mid-April 2020. When staff are paid weekly, this will leave a gap between when you paid them for their last working days and when they will be first paid through the scheme. We believe employers are likely to pay during the gap, and then reclaim. Please follow news outlets for advice on this.

With the government covering 80% of the salary, will you have to cover the remaining 20%? There does not, as far as we can see, seem to be a stipulation to do so. After all, your business is on hold and likely income is too. Some, who can, may choose to top it up; others may be unable to do so. It seems likely that the 80% payment will be made to the employees through your usual Payroll, with the Employeer receiving funds from HMRC. The current PAYE system is not designed to make payments, just to take them. 

However, if you are self-employed, you cannot Furlough yourself. There is currently a gap in the large amount of compensation being offered by the Government when it comes to self-employed, with the only option available (at the time of writing) is to apply for Universal Credit online. This will likely be less than the 80% of your salary and comes with a wait that can be five weeks or more. However, loans can sometimes be available. Whilst there is no hard evidence to support it, it seems likely the Government will plug this hole for the self-employed in the coming days.

Always check the Government website for full and clear guidance before making any decisions, such as advice here.


Saturday 21 March 2020 - OPINION

How can I best use my time, if I close?

Many of us are now faced with closing our businesses for a multitude of reasons. The Government 80% salary cover in the Job Retention Scheme has certainly made the decision easier - knowing our staff can be retained and paid without need for redundancies or battling on into an uncertain future. For others, the fact footfall has dropped off a cliff is forcing the decision. Others will continue staying open until they are ordered to close. Food outlets are likely the ones who will be able to stay open the longest, and perhaps needed most.
For those who choose to stay open, please find a button above to download a handy poster to display  in your business. It covers the most important bases of keeping your distance, avoiding crowding, looking with your eyes not your hands, and keep looking out for updates on your social media feeds.
Anyway, back to the main topic - what could you do whilst closed? We have been collating a number of ideas from around the globe, from multiple business sectors, and are listing some below. Not all may be appropriate for everyone, but there may be one or two gems in there. We welcome your ideas and feedback on whether this has been useful. Please email chair@stroudchamber.org.uk.

  • Redecorate - You know how you've been putting off painting that wall or filling in that hole. Those shelves have been wobbly for a while and that squeaky drawer! If you've got the materials handy, why not blitz those jobs you've been putting off?
  • Refurbish - It's difficult to have a major shift-around and still stay open. It's often not cost effective to close for a week to have a big re-arrange. Now could be the ideal opportunity! Plan what you want to do and cost it out. I know - here we are talking about cost at a time like this - but maybe it's a good investment. Remember those low rate - no repayments for 12 month loans the Government is releasing? You could use a free tool like https://draw.io to start mapping it out with accurate measurements (create a blank chart, use the "+ more shapes" in the bottom left, scroll down and under "Other" you will find "Floor Plans" - tick that and play!) If you need the help of a local trades-person, it could be they are looking for jobs with other jobs they had having been cancelled.
  • Look at your marketing materials -  are they up to date? Could you do with new business cards or posters? Maybe it's time to create some new ones?
  • Look at your website with fresh eyes - is it as engaging as it could be? When you look at it, does it tell who you are within a 5 second glance? If you have an editor, why not spruce it up a bit?
  • It's time to review your online shop! - I can see you flinch :)  If you don't have one, did you put off doing something because it's too time consuming? Well, Covid-19 is the gift that keeps on giving - and it's given you the opportunity to think again! Online selling isn't just about selling online - we know that growing numbers of high street shoppers (in normal times) browse online to see what you sell before visiting you. It really doesn't have to be daunting either - there are great tools out there. It's a bit like planning to mow the lawn or clean the car - it can take longer thinking about doing it than actually doing it. There are many great tools out there (we covered some in our workshop last year) like  https://www.ekm.com/. Worried about all those photos? Speak to your suppliers/manufacturers - they may have product photos online waiting for you to access on an FTP server. If you already have an online shop, are the categories the best ones? Does it flow correctly? Are the prices right? In fact, that's a good point... think about your profit margins now and make sure you are selling at the right price when you re-open. Those cost prices creep up on us, sometimes without noticing.
  • Watch YouTube videos - not cats or goats in hats - tutorials are everywhere on YouTube. Every day is a school day, and even watching something we consider ourselves to be an expert in can bring new knowledge. How up to date are you on visual merchandising? Do you need to brush up on your Social Media skills - what's the latest approach to Instagram? Do you know how to take photos properly? Before you know it, you'll be painting a box and making your goods strike a pose! Oh, then watch a video with Panda's in it :) 
  • Post on social media, regularly - Found something new you're going to stock? Tell your followers about it. Ask how they are. If you go out for a walk - why not show them you are out and about? You'll hopefully be back in business soon enough, so how about keeping them "warm" and still interested. Most importantly, just because you are not open, it doesn't mean you don't have something to say. If all else fails, photo your cup of tea and tell everyone how much you are enjoying it.
  • Spend to save - install LED Lighting - The price of LED battens and panels has come down so much in recent months. They can save you so much money for a relatively low outlay. Always get them installed professionally, of course. Source locally, if you can. Visit https://lyco.co.uk/ for some great ideas.
  • How about a good spring-clean? - I know ... days of disinfecting door handles, handrails and pin pads and now we talk about cleaning! Those display units may be gathering a bit of hidden dust. Light diffusers trap ever insect in a 10-mile radius. We always keep our premises clean, but now could be the ideal time to tackle the lot (if there's not been a run on cleaning materials, of course). Do the outside too - clear away the weeds and road grime.
  • Look at the front of your business - does it say who you are in the best way? Is it an eclectic mix of everything, or so bare it says nothing at all about you? Too many posters? Too many words? If you glance at it for just 5 seconds, what would it tell you if you were a stranger? Sometimes, the best way is to take a photo of it and look at that. It's amazing how something can stand out a mile when you look at a photo, yet you can stare at something in real-life and miss it. 
  • Don't forget yourself - remember to take time for yourself. There are so many stresses in running a business, as much as we may love to do it. Add to that the concerns of contracting coronavirus and the many unknowns we face, it can be a little overwhelming. So, remember to look after yourself and those you love.


Friday 20 March 2020 - LINK

Advice on Trading Through Coronavirus

Business West provide a hub that give guidance and support on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for businesses, employers and employees in the South West of England.
You can access this valuable source of information at www.businesswest.co.uk/trading-through-coronavirus


Friday 20 March 2020 - OPINION

What next for our pubs, cafes, restaurants and bars?

The announcement today that pubs, cafes, restaurants and bars must close by the end of the night is (despite suspicions it would come) devastating news for many such businesses. For some, this has to be a temporary closure. Some announced their closure earlier in the day and over the past few days. Some, we must accept, may never re-open as the economic climate for them was already bad before Covid-19 hit. Obviously, we hope they all come back and just as amazing as before.

Does this have to mean closure, though? Is there a practical way to adapt? There are many factors that govern this - staff costs, overall running costs, supply chain reliability and (most importantly) kitchen capacity. For some, this could be an opportunity to adapt.
What are the public clambering for most at the moment (excluding toilet tissue)? Food! What can you provide, as long as it is take-out? FOOD! It will take less staff, perhaps, than running a full service business, but take-out food (especially in the evenings) could be a good earner. You already have your specialist ingredients and unique taste. If you can prepare hot food and sell it to a market that is crying out for quality food (and may become bored with their own cooking, as I certainly have with mine) you could be just what they're looking for. Can you make ready meals that can be taken away and re-heated? Can you, perhaps, make ready meals that are frozen for take-out? If you have the kitchen, the equipment and the staff - is it worth a go?
Here's another thought ... do you have a good quality supply chain of ingredients? If you do, especially the fresh fruit, vegetables and maybe meat that supermarkets are struggling to satisfy demand with, then this could be your day. Buy it in - use what you need and sell on your surplus.
So many pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will close - so your competition may not be great in this respect - it is quite feasible there is room in this for all of us together. 
In the very bizarre world we find ourselves in today, accurate predictions are very difficult to make. One thing we will always need is food, though.
Add into that the opportunity for drink sales (off-sales if you are licensed to do so and soft drinks) and that could also be in demand.
Can you deliver too? If so, you've just got yourself into the the reach of those who have or choose to isolate.
Payment can be taken over the phone and processed using your existing facilities, such as a PC based Virtual Terminal (if your existing card machines can't process customer-not-present transactions).
Stroud Chamber of Trade wish to bring businesses who can remain open to the attention of the community who crave them. We will do this through our established InStroud brand, and through the new Stroud Delivers Local directory we promote with it.  This could bring you to the attention of an audience you have not reached before, an audience that buy your take-out, love the taste and stay your customer when things return to normal. InStroud is a free service (provided by the Chamber) for bricks and mortar businesses within Stroud town - no catch, no membership required. If you stay open it could be good for you and good for other businesses around you too.
Please do share your views with us by emailing chair@stroudchamber.org.uk.

Friday 20 March 2020 - ADVICE

Does social distancing mean I need to close my business to customers? 

We have received a high number of enquiries about this topic and its a very valid concern. Government guidance is not entirely clear on this in relation to general shopping, other than people should self-isolate if elderly, vulnerable or in an at-risk group. Advice has been given about not gathering in pubs, clubs, restaurants, etc [at the time of writing the ban had not been introduced] but no ban (though it seems likely one is coming, in line with other countries in Europe.

If you remain open, it's essential to follow any government guidance and applicable laws. This should include (but is not limited to) 
  • Clean and disinfect any public facing areas regularly, including door handles and areas customers or staff may touch
  • Ensure areas that are not public facing are subject to increased cleaning and disinfecting, to protect your staff
  • Encourage use of contactless payments to avoid touching currency
  • Clean pin pads regularly and in accordance with manufacturer guidelines
  • Ensure your staff and customers observe physical distancing (sometimes called social distancing) - keeping two metres apart
  • Encourage customers not to touch merchandise they are not going to purchase
  • Consider introducing a customer limit if your premises is small, to avoid overcrowding

Here is the advice we issued to visitors to Stroud, via InStroud today:

If you are heading into town (or anywhere) because you need to, please help keep yourself and others safer by keeping your distance. In a crowded supermarket that can be difficult. In town we have plenty of airy parking (this was midday today!) supplies (milk, veg, pasta, even toilet roll). You walk between the shops in the open air and when you are in a shop, please respect the space around you and others.
Transmission risk is less outdoors than indoors (we are advised by the government and their scientists) so if you have to be out, let’s do it in the open

Thursday 19 March 2020 - LINK

Small Business Rate Relief Grants

We are receiving a high level of messages about the small business rate relief grants. Having just answered the last one in the queue, we thought it will help to share here too.


The following link will take you to the page with the most trustworthy information:

https://www.gov.uk/…/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-a

If your premises was eligible for small business rate relief before the crisis, it appears you will likely be eligible for the small business grant funding. We understand this is not a loan (so won’t need to be paid back as a loan would) and that it will be administered in Stroud and the surrounding district by Stroud District Council, just as small business rate relief was. There will also be a temporary suspension of small business rates for twelve months, as we understand it. Many will have received a business rates statement a week or so ago, and then a separate letter following the changes announced in the budget.

We do not yet know exactly how this will be administered (including whether or not it is a lump sum) but it’s likely many will need it soon.

Please follow reputable news outlets, the link provided above and the Stroud District Council website for the latest information. If you are a business in the district of Stroud, please follow our Facebook page for more updates from us


Thursday 19 March 2020 - LINK

Useful links from Stroud Town Council

Stroud Town Council have curated a number of links that will help inform employers and employees alike, during the Covid-19 crisis.
Access their page at 

https://www.stroudtown.gov.uk/news/2020/03/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-stroud-residents-employers-and-community-groups


Wednesday 18 March 2020 - LINK

If face-to-face is important to your business, don't let Covid-19 get in your way!

Businesses who need to communicate effectively face-to-face with their customers, but can’t visit them at the moment, please consider signing up to whereby.com

It has a free, basic plan, works off many browsers with no need to install software and is really easy to use. Use it on a laptop, smartphone or tablet with just a simple web address.

In times like this we need to adapt. Stroud Chamber of Trade is working hard to help and advise you.
Easy video meetings with no login or downloads. Video conferencing with screen sharing, recording and much more.


Wednesday 18 March 2020 - SERVICE

Stroud Delivers Local - businesses adapting to serve the challenges Covid-19 poses

In the grip of the COVID-19 threat, Stroud businesses are adapting to serve the changing needs of their customers. Restaurants are offering take-away, businesses introducing new, local delivery services and call-and-collect and click-and-collect to save you time and minimise queuing. These businesses are going the extra mile, many offering to deliver efficiently to those who need to remain isolated and assist social distancing during this crisis.
We have produced a basic directory to help you identify them and the services they are offering.

[The link to the directory can be found at the head of this page]

Tuesday 17 March 2020 - CALL TO ACTION

Temporarily suspend Car Park charges - please sign our petition

Please help Stroud District Council understand a temporary suspension of Car Park charges will help our town and make a difference. They have quickly dismissed our request on the grounds it will make no difference (though omitted to provide the evidence upon which they made this ruling).

Please sign our petition: http://chng.it/mt6PP5Sj5j



Tuesday 17 March 2020 - ADVICE

Stroud is closed, isn't it?

"Is Stroud open" is something we regularly see on Social Media right now. 

There seems to be an obsession to believe everything is closed down - it's the new "there's nothing to see in Stroud" that's easily combated by starting to list the names of over 100 amazing independent businesses :) 

However, it does raise the fact that it is more important than ever to use Social Media to tell your followers you are there, you are open and you are ready for business. 
Every day, even if that seems ridiculous, post that you're open

  • Tell them the hours you are open - many businesses are running on shortened hours, so help set expectations
  • Show them what you have on sale though a photo - it helps reinforce that you are there and you have stock
  • Tell them if you provide a delivery service, if they can call-and-collect (great for those who want to spend the minimum amount of time out) and if you have a web shop, provide a link to it

Make sure you cover the above on all your social media - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Wednesday 11 March 2020 - CAMPAIGN

Suspend Car Parking Charges in Stroud Town during the Covid-19 Crisis

Tonight the Chamber has written a letter to Kathy O'Leary, Chief Executive of Stroud District Council, to request the urgent suspension of parking charges in Stroud District Council owned and run car parks in the town.
Stroud is experiencing a significant downturn in footfall due to the fears of Covid-19, a downturn that exceeds usual seasonal predictions and trends. This is posing a real and current threat to our local economy. To ensure business impact is minimised, the Chamber has been considering barrier that could be removed that prevent or discourage visitors from the town. One such barrier is car parking charges - which are unique to Stroud, being absent everywhere else within the reach of Stroud District Council in their car parks.

Whilst there is an often-voiced desire of business to remove parking charges (so being equal across the District) the Chamber consider that it will be less open to rejection if the request is for only a temporary suspension of charges during the Covid-19 crisis. This reflects the fact Covid-19 is the driver behind the lack of footfall and therefore the period of suspension aligns to that threat.

The Chamber understands the current scientific evidence that indicates Covid-19 transmission is significantly lessened in the open air. Suspending the parking charge will remove a barrier for some (especially those where every penny counts as they are not on a higher wage; correlating to amongst the most vulnerable in our society) and could serve to encourage more people into our town; into the open air of a town for shorter periods of time in smaller shops, rather than gathering in large supermarkets and out-of-town, enclosed centres - which aligns with advice on minimising spread of contagious disease, and keeping interactions and confinement to less than 15 minutes.