Despite stores re-opening and the public flocking to the high streets, face masks in-hand, concerns are still being raised over the future of Cumbria’s shopping hubs as some brands continue to close for good.

Over the last few weeks, major names have been lost from high streets throughout Cumbria and the rest of the UK - including betting shop William Hill, Laura Ashley, Currys and WH Smith - and many are worried for their local town’s future.

But one Carlisle business owner feels positive about the city’s future, and is focused on the support of shoppers rather than the concerns.

“[Covid] has really changed people’s shopping habits,” Bookends owner Steve Matthews said.

“People are showing a great deal of caution towards coming out to shop.

“But what I see happening is that, provided we don’t get into another lockdown, we will greatly see the pattern of shopping change, with more people coming into the city to browse and have the real shopping experience.”

The businesses owner, who also runs Bookcase, Cakes and Ale and Keswick’s Bookends, continued: “As far as town centres are concerned, I think they’re at a lot more risk than the city.

“Carlisle has a very attractive and full high street, but very small towns are definitely at risk of losing shoppers – very small places need to get their act together and make the high streets attractive and full, or the shops will really suffer.”

Many restaurants, pubs, cafes and hospitality establishments have signed up for the government’s Eat Out to Help Out, offering visitors discounts off their spends every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout August in a bid to boost sales and recover from the effects of coronavirus.

But it’s not all about what the businesses can do to attract customers, as Mr Matthews added that shoppers also have the responsibility to support their local stores.

He said: “It’s a simple message – spend money.

“People have got out of the habit of spending money because of lockdown, but that’s what’s needed to keep businesses running, and keep the shops open.”

He added: “The main advice to give to everyone is get out there, visit your high street, and spend your money when and wherever you can.”

Former Chamber of Trade Chairman and Cockermouth shop owner, Jonty Chippendale, also has worries for the future – due to its “total uncertainty”.

“The new normal for everybody is just keeping your head above water and trying to carry on,” he said.

“On the whole, trade has been down, but with tourists coming and people staying at home for their holidays, I’m getting quite a few visitors to the shop, which is nice to see.

“At this time, it’s safer to be overly-cautious than overly-optimistic, and I think many people are just hoping for the better time when this is all over.”

He added: “It’s the total uncertainty of it – do we stock up for Christmas because it’ll be present-buying time, or are we not going to get a Christmas this year because of everything going on?

“It’s really difficult to know what the future holds, so I’m remaining cautious for the time being.”

The Toy Shop owner continued, stressing the importance of local shopping: “It’s really lovely when shops could open again and kids came in to spend their money here, after saving it to spend in the shop rather than going to Amazon.

“When people spend locally, it doesn’t just benefit business owners, it benefits everyone who has given money to the local economy.

“The money goes round and round in the local system then, funding local people’s jobs, rather than being given to a national company and never being seen in the town again.”