Many Shetland businesses are reopening for the first time in three months today – and they say public support and confidence will be vital in seeing them through the dark days that still lie ahead.
Non-essential shops are able to reopen today, as part of phase two in the route map.
Provisional dates have also been set for the possible reopening of outdoor hospitality, which includes some cafes and beer gardens, from 6th July, and the rest of the hospitality sector from the 15th, along with hairdressers and barbers.
Living Lerwick project manager Emma Miller has been working to encourage folk to make the most of the easing of lockdown and support their local businesses.
She said the original announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, which gave a later date for the reopening of shops than had been initially hoped, had been “disappointing”.
However, she has used the time to prepare for the new date – today.
Lerwick town centre has been decked out with bunting, flower displays and floor-standing baskets have been freshly painted – all in a bid to welcome back shoppers.
And with the launch of Living Lerwick’s “Spend at da Street” campaign today– offering shoppers a chance to win £200 of vouchers to spend in the town – Ms Miller is hoping many folk will want to hit the high street.
“I think it’s about time we got back to Shetlanders going down the street for news,” she said.
“That’s where we do our socialising – we can’t go to the pub yet, we can’t have dinner with friends, but we can go down the street, see who’s about, enjoy the flowers and pick up a few bits.”
Ms Miller said that the further reopening of pubs, cafes and hairdressers provisionally set for the coming days and weeks would bring further benefits.
“I’m hopeful that with the easing of restrictions, more folk will be able to use the town centre to enjoy takeaway coffees or food and browse the shops,” she added.
“Shetlanders are a sociable bunch and I think a socially distanced news with folk along the street is much missed.”
SIC convener Malcolm Bell has also urged the public to support local businesses.
“A big part in getting back to normality will be our shops and business opening up and it’s important that as a community we do our best to support them as they emerge from a very dark period,” he said.
“It’s vital that we find a balance between the interests of public health, the economy and society.