JLife speaks to the familiar faces of Street Lane to get a handle on the local economic impact of the pandemic, and how businesses are adapting to stand by their communities.

At this time of year, we normally focus on one of North Leeds’ most sought-after suburbs, talking what’s new and what’s great. The long, vibrant and bustling stretch of Street Lane, packed with shopping and dining choices and flanked by the world-class Tropical World and Roundhay Park, has long been a stop-off on the Leeds dining and shopping trails, with everything from designer clothes and shoes and trendy bars to home interiors and Mediterranean mezze. Street Lane is still the place, but this year we talk to some of the headline businesses to hear how the pandemic has affected them, and the area.

Amy Martin, General Manager of Holly House Vets

Most of our services remain open and active; however, we are still keeping clients outside at Street Lane, while some services have resumed face-to-face at Moor Allerton. We know some clients have found this frustrating, especially as other services have opened up however, we need to keep our team safe so that they can continue to deliver an emergency service to the pets of North Leeds.

We’ve gone to incredible efforts to protect our staff and customers, so protective screens have been installed around all of our reception desks, we have planned the appointments very carefully to avoid crossover, hand sanitizer stations are in all our waiting areas and masks are worn at all times on the premises.

We have been exceptionally busy, sometimes with reduced staff numbers, and at some points our professional body advised against us seeing anyone for routine appointments, which meant emergencies only. This has left us with a backlog which we are trying our hardest to work through and we thank our clients for their patience with us.

Communication has been a big challenge, with massive pressure on our telephone system due to the high volume of calls as clients can’t just walk in.  We have solved this by installing a new telephone system that assists us and employing more staff.

Street Lane is a thriving community we will bounce back from this!

Richard Share, co-founder of Share Jewellers

We have been open from the moment the government allowed on 15th June and it has been steadily busier, although not yet at the pre-COVID levels of business.

Our customers are very happy not to have to go into the city centre or a shopping centre and we have noticed general footfall to be on the increase.

Our online business continues to improve as more and more customers are wanting to support local shops. We see that local independent retailers, where of course they are on the whole owner managed (like ourselves) so the customer can receive the very best advice for their particular needs, as the way forward and hopefully we will continue to get support from the North Leeds community.

Val Berry, founder of Haley & Clifford

We’re proud to say we remained open throughout the pandemic. Obviously we had to close our café in the early days, so we pulled out our tables and chairs and created more retail space. We’ve been really busy, our local customers have been amazing – so loyal and supportive! We were so busy that we very quickly managed to bring back all of our furloughed retail team, so I want to offer a huge thanks to our fantastic community for their amazing support.

We lost half our business within the first week of lockdown as our corporate catering just evaporated! But then we had two redundant catering vans – so we started offering free local home deliveries. We were taking phone orders for same day deliveries and we’ve set up a basic online shop for next day and future orders.

Footfall on Street Lane is looking much healthier than it was – it was quite lonely up here in the early days! It’s so good to see all the other businesses reopening, and it’s certainly busier on the parade than it used to be. I think as lots of people continue to work from home for at least some of the time, local high streets will continue to thrive.

The pandemic has shown us that local shops are crucial contributors to vibrant communities. Each one is unique and adds richness and colour to the high street. Small independents often source locally too, creating jobs and putting money back into the local economy. We sensed a real awareness among our customers during lockdown that if we didn’t support our small independents throughout, then they might not be there on the other side.

This year has reminded us of the importance of community, and if local retailers serve their community well, they’ll do just fine.

Ian Sandford, General Manager Four Seasons Interiors

An enforced three-month business closure was not what any of us expected to face when we started 2020. But on March 16th, as we sadly decommissioned our showroom, we had no idea when we’d be back or what the future held.

However, by the end of May, our clients let us know that they were determined to plough on with their projects just as soon as we were allowed to do so safely.

To start with, we offered a virtual design service and presentation via a Zoom call, until clients could meet us again in person.

The showroom is now open strictly by appointment only, offering clients exclusive access to the showroom for up to three hours at a time. We provide PPE and have created as safe an environment as possible for our design team and clients alike.

Accepting that footfall would be vastly reduced, we have worked hard to improve our website and online presence, using digital and social marketing to showcase many of our completed projects.

There seems to be a genuine determination to support local businesses since restrictions have lifted, which is fantastic. I’m sure, that as businesses adapt and evolve, make customers feel safe and cared for, Street Lane will not only survive the current challenges but continue to be the attractive road known for its great shops, bars and restaurants.