Great Britain

How vouchers are spreading loss from coronavirus for North-East traders

BUSINESSES across the North-East are using vouchers to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.

Hotel Rockliffe Hall, salons ARStudios and Era 21 Plus and photographer Sarah Johnson are just four of many businesses encouraging people to buy vouchers while they are closed due to social distancing guidelines.

Vouchers can spread the financial loss for businesses whose income would otherwise completely stagnate, while giving people something to look forward to after the coronavirus pandemic.

Darlington-based Joanne Somers, 53, from Era 21 Plus salon, said voucher efforts were encouraged by a support network of businesses in the region.

Her aptly named "survival vouchers" have so far covered two girls' wages and will help with overheads while the salon is shut.

She said: "I decided to start calling them survival vouchers when this all got serious because that's what they are, they'll help us survive.

"We aren't asking for a lot of money, it just keeps us ticking over.

"Era 21 Plus has been here 20 years and never have I faced something like this before nor thought I would. Even the recession wasn't this bad, somehow we managed okay."

Arianna Robinson, from Bishop Auckland but covering the whole of the region, started ARStudios in January, and is offering vouchers for services rather than price, meaning even if prices increase, people will still get what they paid for.

The 19-year-old said: "Business this time of the year should be the busiest, with people going on holiday, which is the best time to get new customers. The main thing with vouchers is that, while I get the money now, I know I have the customers there who will be coming later or that can give it to a friend.

"I'm pushing them as a gift because people are missing birthdays and occasions but don't know where they will be financially after this."

Miss Robinson said the lead up to her closure was "confusing" as beauty and hair salons were never specifically named and told to close, unlike gyms and pubs.

"The unknown wasn't good. You want to be safe but you also need business coming in," she added.

Sarah Johnson, 37, who has a photography business under the same name, also felt this confusion, describing it as a "difficult time".

"The people I photograph will be two meters away anyway, but I wanted to keep myself and my husband safe so decided to put everything on hold until a later date," she said.

Mrs Johnson, from Newton Aycliffe, is encouraging vouchers for family shoots as an experiential gift, at a time where "we are all releasing how important friends and family are".

"Some people will be saving money or not working themselves, but vouchers are the only think I can think of," Mrs Robinson, who is also planning to run an online course, added.

"As a small business owner, I'm doing everything I can to make sure I come out the other side of this."

Rockliffe Hall marketing manager Katie Scott also said the hotel is putting greater emphasis on vouchers and is extending the validity of existing ones, while expressing thanks to key workers.

She said: "Vouchers can be purchased through our website, and even though we are closed at the moment we are busy working behind the scenes to bring some exceptional events and experiences to fruition when we throw back open our doors.

"We would also like to express our most sincere thanks and gratitude to all the key workers from across the NHS, healthcare, logistics, food supply and of course the teachers for their hard work so far in protecting us all throughout the pandemic, and we will be saying thank you in a big way, as soon as we can safely do so."

For more information on each business and vouchers, search respective names on social media.

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