BUSINESSES in the town have faced immense uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic.

But many company bosses have pulled out all the stops to adapt to the situation amid the mass disruption and pressure.

And through the new real5 Faces campaign, business owners hope to encourage residents to shop locally.

Christine Ditchfield, director of 3 Pugs Gin, reflected on her initial fears as the UK entered lockdown.

As well as its usual operations, the Penketh Business Park-based gin distiller started producing hand sanitiser during the crisis – some of which was provided to Warrington Borough Council for care workers on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus.

She said: “Initially, like any other businessperson in the town I had a bit of a heart attack thinking ‘oh my god how are we going to survive?’.

“I think I spent around two weeks dithering around wondering what we were going to do because obviously trade stopped almost overnight, for pubs, bars, restaurants and distributors.

“I suddenly thought, you know what, we have got a website here, a real sort of core of people who buy from us.

“I decided to just start promoting our products to the end user, rather than business to business.

“We spent a lot of time doing that and slowly but surely momentum gathered.”

The firm has also produced a new gin called Dark Days, with 10 per cent of each bottle sold, £4, going to NHS charities.

Furthermore, Christine confirmed business over the past two months has predominately come from Warrington and the surrounding areas.

Three people are employed at the firm but two have been placed on furlough.

“We are currently in the process of getting ready to open and take the people off furlough,” said Christine.

“I think, moving forward, we’ve realised as a business that the consumer is as, if not more, important than the trade route.

“We value customer service, the customer is very important to us.

“I will keep my home office now because we have also recognised social distancing is going to be with us for a long, long time.”

Another company which has had its work cut out during the pandemic is Belvoir Sales and Lettings, which is based on Sankey Street.

Warrington Guardian:

Belvoir Sales and Lettings

Director Gary Pemberton says it has been an extremely busy time for the firm as much of its work could be done remotely.

Meanwhile, he praised his ‘amazing’ staff for their efforts during the testing period.

Gary said: “We have projected an image of being virtually open and picked up a lot of new business.

“We have been really, really busy and obviously, as well as being very busy, doing our utmost to try and help people because there were a number of tenants out there that were finding paying rent etcetera challenging – and we very much saw ourselves as advice and support.

“We were kind of ahead of the game on what I call the virtual process.

“There’s a lot of media discussion over house prices dropping etcetera, I’ve not seen that one single bit.

“Based on what I have seen, and I have spoken to a lot of colleagues in the town, I think Warrington bellwethers these storms incredibly well.

“I think we’ve got to be incredibly careful not to talk ourselves into something.

“I think Warrington is maybe in its own bubble, it’s a real ‘go ahead, make things happen’ town, so from that point of view I'm very positive.”

John Duggan, director of 4 Seasons Air Conditioning, which is based in Higher Whitley, was full of praise for the real5 Faces campaign.

He said: “There was a lot of uncertainty to begin with, however, we made some decisions early on and they seem to have been the right decisions.

“There’s a different focus on the local economy and encouraging that – real5 have done a lot more than any other networking group in promoting that and actually going a long way to achieving it.

“It’s a significantly different network, it doesn’t appear to be initially.

“But when you actually go to the meetings, you don’t have any of this stand up and tell people about yourselves, you actually arrange one-to-ones, the meetings are at decent venues, there is a different atmosphere there.”

Meanwhile, as part of a ‘back in town’ recovery strategy for the town centre, Warrington Business Improvement District (BID) is calling out to businesses to share their plans for reopening when lockdown restrictions are eased.

Warrington Guardian:

Warrington town centre

Warrington BID is collecting data from companies about their plans to reopen to monitor what is happening on the ground.

This is for all types and sizes of businesses and organisations in the town centre, whether BID members or not. Warrington BID Manager Harriet Roberts said: “By registering your plans and asking for support if you need it, you will be part of planning and promoting a robust recovery plan and a consistent safety message and communication with visitors.

“This information will also help to shape how we support businesses with sustainability and innovation.

“We are keen to do what we can to get the town back on its feet and to work with all our partners to create and promote Warrington as a safe and healthy place to shop, visit and do business.”

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Business owners have come together to launch the real5 Faces campaign to encourage people to shop locally.

It showcases the ‘real faces’ of businesses in Warrington in the hopes that it will encourage people to stay in the area when buying items.

Andrew Hibbert, real5 Networking founder, and Golden Square centre director Ian Cox have teamed up to put business owners at the forefront during this unprecedented time.

By emphasising the people rather than the businesses, the pair are hoping to encourage everyday consumers to shop local wherever possible.

The unique profiles aim to make it clear to see that it is ‘real, everyday people’ who are working hard to provide services and products to the community.

The concept of connecting businesses, people and the wider community does not come new to either Andrew or Ian, who are passionate about creating new opportunities and experiences for the town.

Andrew believes how businesses act with staff, customers and suppliers during these difficult times will define how they are perceived in the future.

“The people make the town, it’s time for the town to focus on the people,” he said.

Ian says real5 Faces is about understanding the story behind the shop front and ‘how you can make a difference through thinking local with your pound’.

He added: “With Golden Square being part of the real5 Network it was a no brainer for us to collaborate on this initiative.

“The beauty of this town is in its people and it’s vitally important that we focus on those individuals who provide a variety of wonderful products and services throughout the town.”

The campaign believes the ‘unforgiving situation we find ourselves in’ has shown the importance of pulling together and supporting each other through spending money locally.

It is also confident that by spending money in the town centre and with businesses, shoppers can help companies get through the difficult period and ‘continue to flourish in what will be our new version of normal’.

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