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Salisbury businesses back on their feet after nerve agent attack

In the days after the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, the emergency services, recovery teams and the world’s media descended. The city was in near shut down.

And while the community was left in shock at what had taken place on their doorstep, the attack left many businesses reeling.

The incident, and subsequent investigation and clean up, meant some businesses had to close their doors for months, while many others suffered due to a lack of footfall as tourists stayed away.

Not only has there been a loss of sales during that period, the impact continues, with a worrying dip in the number of visitors booking trips to the city’s Christmas markets in December. 

But the message from firms based there is one of defiance: we are open for business. 

This message was amplified by a visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall who arrived in Salisbury on Friday to meet members of the community impacted by the attack. 

The royal pair was met by cheering crowds lining the streets, before heading into the Guildhall to greet members of the business community.

Amongst those meeting the royal couple was FSB’s Wiltshire area lead Mary Webb, who along with development manager Nicola Bailey, was invited to join the city’s Recovery Planning Group set up in the aftermath of the attack, which took place on March 4.  

Immediately after the attack, Wiltshire Council went into recovery mode, with FSB working alongside the authorities to help get the city back on its feet - providing members with updates and advice, and making sure the needs of small firms based there were at the forefront of decisions.

Communication is key and business communities need to be kept updated of the situation. Due to their size and lack of resources, smaller businesses are often more vulnerable to events like this, due to their size and lack of resources and need to be supported in coming up with a planning and preparation strategies.

And while there’s no doubt the attack had a huge impact on businesses based in the city, many have shown great resilience in the aftermath.

FSB member Dana Burton, who runs ethical retail store Goodfayre, was briefly impacted by a lack of footfall immediately after the attack, but is now experiencing growth. Dana has been able to attract customers with niche and innovative products and hold events like vegan cheese making classes, to bring in extra revenue.

Gareth Thomas, who runs Cambridge Wines, was able to create a new income stream selling to pubs and restaurants to increase sales following the attack.

Dana of Goodfayre said: “We're really thrilled to be part of a great community such as Salisbury, it was encouraging to see how the whole community pulled together following the unprecedented events in the city. We're committed to growing within the city and providing ethical and sustainable alternatives.”

After meeting the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Mary Webb said “It’s was great to meet TRH the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall as part of recognition for the resilience and recovery of Salisbury. Both Prince Charles and Camilla were well informed about the attack, and were in Salisbury to support the city. I was very grateful to be part of the Business Sector group represented to them both, and we were able to discuss how businesses were coping following the attack.

“Going forward, I am also pleased to be part of the Business Recovery Group working with Wiltshire Council and Swindon & Wiltshire LEP, and to contribute to an economic plan for the city.”

Dana Burton and Gareth Thomas

FSB’s Operations Director Salena Dawson met with Dana and Gareth on Friday to discuss how their businesses are coping following the incident. 

"It never ceases to amaze me the resilience of Small business owners. It the midst of such challenging times today I met with business owners in Sailsbury, who despite recent circumstances had spoke of how they had tackled the detriment to business by diversifying and adapting to take responsibility themselves for increasing sales to their businesses. Stoic in their response to the adverse events they have pulled together as a business community giving the best of support to each other. I applaud Sailsbury business owners they are a true inspiration and I am proud that the FSB provide our members with a voice to ensure additional support is forthcoming through the local Recovery Group"