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Back to the office: More people working from home could boost local business and help revive the High Street

People working from home could provide the boost in business Kent 's High Streets need.

Amid the push for more people to return to offices, local stores say they are thriving and many who used to travel long distances every day are enjoying the best of both worlds.

Chatham Highstreet is set to benefit greatly from the new working from home culture
Chatham Highstreet is set to benefit greatly from the new working from home culture

Stuart Bourne, from Rainham, said: "At the moment my wife wants to find a balance between the two. Her job requires her to work maybe two days a week in the London office, but she wants the rest at home to save the commuting and see our children more."

With already costly annual season tickets set to rise by £100 next year , the money saved from travelling allows the family to spend locally instead.

The father-of-two added: "We absolutely spend more on the High Street.

"My wife used to often buy a Pret breakfast or lunch whilst in London. Now we are spending the money at the local shops to make lunch together, but she is also sending me up to local Costa for the fancy coffee fix too."

Throughout June, around 29% of workers travelled to their workplace full time, according to Office for Naitonal Statistics figures.

Locality Greengrocers in Tunbridge Wells
Locality Greengrocers in Tunbridge Wells

However, as more returned from furlough, the number of people working fully or part time from home rose from 40.5% to 48.9% in one week, with the majority working from home full time.

Chatham sits third place on a list High Streets who are benefitting most from this new working from home culture in a recent study and local businesses are noticing this change.

Niall Clark, manager of Locality greengrocers in Tunbridge Wells said: "There are definitely more people coming into places like us now, especially since lockdown started.

"I think people were scared to go into the supermarket inn lockdown because it was so busy and the variety of what the supermarkets are offering was so limited.

"After saving money on travel, people are sticking with us now and I think they will carry on to do so - which is brilliant."

Alice Larkin, owner at Steep Street Coffee House in Folkestone
Alice Larkin, owner at Steep Street Coffee House in Folkestone

Even the local coffee shop is seeing a demographic change as home workers set out to satisfy their coffee fix locally.

Alice Larkin, owner at Steep Street Coffee House in Folkestone, said: "We've been amazed how busy it's been. We thought we were going to be just hanging on - but it's not been like that at all."

"I think our demographics have changed because there are people who aren't coming out anymore because they're nervous.

"But I'm guessing most of those people have been replaced by others who would have been going up to London and are working from home now."

"It completely makes sense; you're not spending all that money on a train ticket to London or wherever and working at home is quite solitary.

Steep Street Coffee House in Folkestone
Steep Street Coffee House in Folkestone

"We've always had people that work in the cafe. There are definitely people who are working from home and just want to see other people and be in an atmosphere for a bit."

However, Jo James, head of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce warns of the negative impact on other supply chains which rely on purchases by office workers.

Lunch giant Pret A Manger recently announced it would be cutting 2,900 jobs and closing 30 locations across the UK. Of these, 11 were in London after low numbers of commuters caused profits to drop.

She also warns the current economic crisis could nip any progress for local stores in the bud.

She added: "People are in uncertain times. Businesses are nowhere near up to capacity. We know the business isn't there, so therefore there's a lot of people who have concerns over the future of their job roles and when people face uncertainty around the economy generally they're likely to spend less.

Jo James CEO of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce
Jo James CEO of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

"We've all got a job to do in helping our local economy and helping our local businesses, especially our small independent businesses because during the initial part of lockdown the local shop, the local butcher or the farm shop really were our saviours."

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