'It's been an exceptionally tough year' - reflect Hartlepool businesses on first lockdown anniversary
Many small Hartlepool businesses have been forced to adapt due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic.
A number have looked to online to continue to be there for their customers or used it to change how they work to survive the last 12 months.
Pear Wasp English Tutoring, based at Hartlepool Energy Hub, in Stranton, went from being fully booked this time last year to parents cancelling in droves within weeks as GCSEs and SATS were cancelled.
Owner Philipa Appleby said: “With GCSEs and SATs once again being cancelled, I have had to adapt my business. I set to work in September creating my online learning platform and it launched on Saturday.
"One thing I have learnt from being self-employed is that you have to be patient and willing to adapt.
"It’s been an exceptionally tough year, but fingers crossed we will be able to all survive and bounce back soon.”
Other businesses, such as Poppys Hairdressing, in Victoria Road, have been unable to go online.
Owner Janice Auton said “This year long Covid-19 crisis has been a time of great disruption and uncertainty, resulting in the decline of my business that could not be avoided.
"Furlough and grants have secured Poppys future, unfortunately I couldn’t diversify online as you can’t buy a haircut on online.”
She and other businesses have had to understand and implement new health and safety procedures, risk assessments and PPE requirements.
Janice added she has a long-term post-Covid recovery plan in place where they are looking to offer new services and introduce a boutique area.
“Our ability to stay grounded with sense of purpose and remain true to our identity is of the utmost importance during this period,” she said.
Tom Cook, project director of TheBigLeague CIC, which looks after 40 businesses at Bovis House and Crown House, said: "It has been a little bit difficult for businesses to keep up with the changing guidance although they have been pretty accepting that it’s necessary.
"The last few moths have been a lot more difficult in terms of morale but people are still holding on.
“However, some businesses, particularly those that do food takeouts, are thriving.”
Dan McGovern, designer of buylocalhartlepool.co.uk, said the new website has provided an online outlet for a number of businesses with 80 currently registered.