As high streets brace themselves for the effects of new Covid restrictions, 2021 ends much as it began for many of our well-loved shops, with trading conditions tough and the future uncertain. For long-established independent drycleaner, Goldfinch’s, in the historic town of Lewes, East Sussex, trade has already started to fall, just days after an increase in coronavirus cases was reported in the county. Footfall at Goldfinch's in Cliffe High Street has tailed off noticeably, as co-director Laura Hughes explains: "Already we are hearing from customers that they are not keen to venture into town to see us and, although we've increase our collection and delivery service, our takings have been affected by the renewed fear of the virus."

The pandemic forced many businesses, including family-run Goldfinch's to start a home-delivery service, and it has proved very popular as Greenfinch’s fellow director, Alan Wood, notes: "We began just by serving customers in Lewes and then, as the lockdown continued last year, extended our service to Ringmer and, gradually, to more and more outlying villages.

Today we go as far as Rottingdean and Saltdean in the west, to Newick and Ditchling in the north, and over to Hailsham and Pevensey in the east and everyone is very pleased to see us as it saves them travelling into Lewes."

Like many shopkeepers, Goldfinch's owners had hoped that, with the easing of restrictions in the summer, things could get back to normal but the weekend's announcement of new measures they are now bracing themselves. "We all believed, as we were told, that the Roadmap to recovery was truly irreversible and that trading conditions would improve," said Hughes.

"But with just three reported cases of the new variant Omicron we are on the verge of new restrictions which are going to impact severely on independent traders such as ourselves, and on our staff who now face an uncertain Christmas given the Prime Minister's latest announcement. The future is looking bleak once again."

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