WARRINGTON’S businesses face a colossal challenge as they embark on a new chapter while prioritising customer safety to limit the dangers posed by coronavirus.

Companies have brought in a range of new measures – including social distancing signage and limiting the people allowed in a store at once – to make their sites ‘Covid-19 secure’.

Browsers Warrington, which is based at Cockhedge Shopping Centre, was among the businesses that opened their doors again when the town centre reopened for business last Monday.

The company, which is owned by Jason Dibbert and wife Sarah, sells beds, bedroom furniture, mattresses and headboards.

Jason said footfall in the store was nowhere near where it would normally be during the first week.

He said: “I think that is a mix of some people being put off because they are still worried about the virus and we’ve had to put some measures in place because of social distancing.

“So we can only allow two people from the same household at a time in store.

“While in the store they can try a bed but if they want to then we have to put some hygiene rolls down for them and take a bit more time cleaning down when they have gone.

“I think with it being week one people are just getting used to things.”

Warrington Guardian:

Cockhedge Shopping Centre

The company was able to continue selling some goods online during the lockdown – and despite facing an unprecedented challenge it was a period where it did not panic.

Jason said: “While we were trading online, it was still way down where we would normally be in terms of sales and also in terms of margins as well because we had to reduce a few prices to be competitive online.

“Typically, we are a bricks and mortar retailer and we prefer the customers to come in and try before they buy kind of thing.

“During the lockdown we sort of ticked over, it just meant we were in a better position when we reopened.”

But Jason does expect footfall to increase in the near future.

“I think it’s just a matter of people getting that confidence,” he said.

“I am very confident that over next few weeks and months going into autumn things will come back pretty strong.”

Browsers Warrington has four members of staff but two currently remain on furlough.

“We came into it quite strong financially and with all the support from the Government, in terms of the business rates holiday and so forth, we predicted we would bounce back quite quickly to be fair,” said Jason.

Furthermore, Century Sim Racing, which is based at Bank Quay Trading Estate, is preparing to reopen on July 4.

Warrington Guardian:

Century Sim Racing

Company founder James Whitehouse says he is currently ‘neck deep’ in getting the simulated racing business ready.

But it has not all been bad news for the firm during the lockdown after it was forced to close its site.

James said: “We have been in a fortunate position, the fact that people aren’t able to come to our site doesn’t mean that we can’t still have people racing.

“And because lots of people have their own simulators at home, I’ve run a number of E-sport series over the lockdown.”

The company, which has eight simulators at its base, hosts simulated races on a server for people.

But James admits being online was not really a part of the business before the lockdown, merely just something that was being considered.

He said: “We have been able to reach out slightly further afield because we are not reliant on just the Warrington area to put bums in seats, we can actually get people in Brazil who want to come and race because they have a seat of their own.

“It has been really nice actually because I started this thing not sure how it was going to go then I ended up with a really big thriving community of people that are chatting all the time.

“I am trying to put together a bit of a prize but in simulated racing bragging rights are largely what you are going for anyway.”

Warrington Guardian:

Century Sim Racing

A range of new measures will be in place once the business reopens, including a hand washing station, literature on display and a requirement to wear a mask and gloves.

“First and foremost we are opening out of necessity really because the economy is taking a huge dive at the moment,” said James.

“If we have the opportunity to open, we don’t really have a choice to not.

“But obviously the biggest responsibility that we all have is we have to keep each other safe and healthy.

“We are opening with a load of things attached to it to make sure everyone is staying safe.

“We are in a fortunate position because social distancing within our business is not difficult at all because what you are doing is sitting in a seat six feet from everyone.”

Sixteen people will be allowed into the site at once when it reopens.

Meanwhile, Labour's Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols has visited one of the town’s independent businesses to hear about the work it is doing to promote cycling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The politician recently made her way to Ron Spencer Cycles, on Crossley Street.

Warrington Guardian:

MP Charlotte Nichols at Ron Spencer Cycles

Originally on Orford Lane, the shop’s current location was opened in 2019 by six-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny.

Since the lockdown started, Warrington has seen a 75 per cent increase in cycling compared to this time last year.

Ms Nichols said: “As we navigate our way through the coronavirus crisis, it is more important than ever to support our local independent shops.

“It was great to visit Ron Spencer Cycles and to meet Suzy to hear more about the work and history of the shop and the great work they are doing locally to promote cycling.

“We are lucky in Warrington that we have a great provision for leisure cycling and many people have taken it up as a hobby during lockdown which is really encouraging to see.”

“However, some of the infrastructure for cycle commuting is poor and as things start to return to normal what we really don’t want to see return to normal is Warrington’s awful traffic problems.

“The more we can make it easier for people to cycle, the better it will be for all of us.

“Cycling has so many benefits – for physical and mental health and for our environment.

“If you haven’t yet taken up cycling, I would highly recommend it.”

Furthermore, a co-working office is almost ready to open its new 5,000 square foot site in the heart of Warrington.

Company altspace is bringing a specially designed ground floor facility to Patten House, on Moulders Lane, on July 6.

Warrington Guardian:

Co-working office site altspace

It will provide private offices for companies and hot desks for co-workers in a working environment offering a variety of services suited to the modern business.

The firm has successfully operated in Altrincham for four years, welcoming small companies and remote workers across a diverse range of sectors.

From architects and surveyors to media specialists and graphic designers, the space has met the needs of a wide variety of business people.

Steve Upham, from altspace, says the new site in Cheshire’s largest market town is a natural progression and will empower the business community by providing a professional base and meeting space in the heart of the borough.

He also says Warrington has a strength in the digital and technology sector.

Belvoir Sales and Lettings, which is based on Sankey Street, has been extremely busy over recent weeks.

Director Gary Pemberton says demand for lettings and sales has been incredible.

But he admits his team have been slightly nervous over carrying out viewings, in line with Government guidelines including social distancing.

Warrington Guardian:

Belvoir Sales and Lettings

Gary said: “I have not done viewings in years but I have basically gone back to the front leading and helping them and showing them what to do.”

He also welcomed the footfall in the town centre since it reopened for business.

However, Gary expressed concerns over people ignoring the new safety measures in place including the one-way systems.

He said: “I thought what was particularly noticeable on both the town’s streets and Golden Square Shopping Centre was that both the council and Golden Square have made massive efforts to put all the signage in to say keep to the left, stay to the left.

“But the number of people that are just ignoring it is unreal. That is a bit frustrating because that is there to keep everyone safe.”

But Gary says he is really positive about the town’s ability to bounce back from the pandemic.

Nevertheless, he did acknowledge the significant difficulties facing many businesses, as well as the job losses that will be ahead for people.

He added: “I’ve always felt in the 12 years I’ve had this business in the town that the town is very resilient.

“It always seems to know how to fight back and I think on this occasion it will.”

Meanwhile, a car wash fears there is a 70 per cent chance it will not survive because of the coronavirus crisis.

Waves Car Wash – which is located in the car park of Tesco Extra, on Winwick Road – will reopen this Saturday.

But owner Saleh Sulaivani fears his site might have to shut permanently due to the damage caused by the pandemic and the length of the closure.

He said: “It has gone from bad to worse to be honest, it has been too long.

“I would say there is a 60 to 70 percent chance I might not survive.

“But at least they have given us a chance to open.”

Staff at the car wash will observe social distancing while masks will also be worn as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Asked whether he believes business will be able to bounce back quickly, Saleh said: “Definitely not, it will definitely be a while.

“I know people who have already opened and they are really struggling.

“It went quiet at the beginning of March – and in February and January the weather was not good at all. We kind of depend on the weather.

“After that, the weather was better but obviously we were in the lockdown.

“We have got everything in place to get ready for this Saturday.”