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Leicester toy shop owner says new lockdown could be ‘final straw’ for businesses

Megan Baynes, PA

A Leicester shop owner has said businesses urgently need financial help if they are to avoid collapse due to the renewed lockdown placed on the city.

Joseph Hand, owner of Leicester Vintage and Old Toy Shop, told the PA news agency the lockdown has already put his business “two years behind” where he had hoped to be and he fears the stricter measures could stunt its growth further.

An Amazon Prime show about how the shop had survived and come through lockdown was released on Monday – the same day the renewed strict measures were announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Mr Hand said: “We have spent so much money trying to get set back up. During the lockdown, we did have financial help from the Government, but running the shop like this we have had a lot of expenses.

“Businesses were all geared up to reopen. We need help. We understand a decision had to be made but we also need help.

“If it saves a couple of people, it’s fine. If it saves one person, that’s fine. A life is worth more than the money, but the fact is places will go out of business and are going out of business right now. For some people, this is the final straw.”

The shop had made preparations to reopen, including putting social distancing measures in place, and investing in new stock, but the new measures will mean a loss of walk-in trade.

Mr Hand said the city is feeling “deep frustration”, but he has a four-year-old son who falls into the high-risk category so he understands why the decision has been made.

A police car in Gallowtree Gate in Leicester after Health Secretary Matt Hancock imposed a local lockdown following a spike in coronavirus cases in the city (Joe Giddens/PA)

A spike in infections in Leicester means it has three times more cases than the city with the next highest total, and it has become the first place in the UK to enter a local lockdown.

To slow down the spread, from Tuesday all non-essential shops will have to shut, while schools will close their doors to most pupils from Thursday.

Mr Hand said: “We are a vintage toy shop so we sell to adults and we have already lost our old customer base, our older people.

“In the last two weeks, we have seen only one out of our elderly customers.”