'Bright future' for Weston high street

Walker and Ling boss Sam Walker. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Walker and Ling boss Sam Walker. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

A shop which has been trading in Weston for almost 120 years has now gone digital to serve its customers during the pandemic.

Walker & Ling, in High Street, is offering online shopping, click and collect services and local delivery in Weston.

Owner Sam Walker is running the service himself after furloughing his staff during the second lockdown.

Sam said: “We’ve thought about doing ecommerce for a number of years.

"This is the perfect opportunity to experiment - the doors are closed and nobody is here.

“In March, I had hundreds of phone calls on the first day of lockdown to see if we could deliver.

“I really think people would like the chance to buy Christmas presents from a local shop and have them delivered the next day.  

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“People want to support the economy and businesses by buying their Christmas presents locally.

“Lots of our customers will rely on shops like ours to get their everyday goods and although we are not an essential shop, we are an important part of the local high street shopping offer.”  

Sam, who is the fifth generation of his family to run the independent department store, has noticed a lot of changes in shopping trends since the pandemic.

He added: “The cook shop industry is unrecognisable from last year - it’s doubled in size - because people are cooking at home and baking. So, I think we will sell lots of kettles, toasters and slow cookers.  

“Our womenswear brands, especially Seasalt, and knitwear have been quite popular and we haven’t been able to keep tea towels in stock.  

“As we’re a department store, we’ve got good sellers and bad sellers, so we've traded at a steady level this year and hopefully we’ll keep our head down and get through December.”

Although many shops are now struggling due to the second lockdown, Sam believes the future for Weston is bright.

He said: “I think there will be a renaissance. They are not going to fill these empty units with TopShops and River Islands, so I think Weston will be a vibrant high street with independent stores and leisure facilities.  

"The new placemaking strategy is very positive. The council has invested in the Sovereign Centre which is a big boost, and we have a newly-refurbished town square.

“There are some exciting prospects for Weston. The high street will be OK in the end. It has a bright future.” 

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