Published: 06:00, 26 November 2020
| Updated: 11:36, 26 November 2020
Businesses in Swale are facing an anxious wait to find out what tier they will be in when lockdown lifts next moth, as the borough continues to top the table with the highest coronavirus infection rate in England.
Among them is Nim’s Fruit Crisps, based on Sittingbourne’s Trinity Trading Estate, which has already had to adapt its business with the changing pandemic rules.
Founder Nimisha Raja said her factory had “so far escaped any major infection” unlike others across the country, but the latest figures were “worrying”.
“I can’t afford to close,” she said. “I’d worry that if I closed down for five or six months, say, that I wouldn’t re-open again.”
Nimisha said the run-up to Christmas was usually a busy time for her and her 19 staff members but, with the uncertainty this year, the lockdown “feels worse now than it did at the beginning”.
“Hopefully, by the end of the week, we should have a better idea of what the business will look like up until January”.
She added that the firm had seen a drop in sales for its air-dried fruit and vegetable crisps, which are sold in Tesco, M&S and Waitrose.
"I’d worry that if I closed down for five or six months, say, that I wouldn’t re-open again.”
“People’s shopping habits have changed. They’re buying to eat at home so they’re now buying share bags rather than a packet of crisps with a sandwich. But it’s not all doom and gloom, our Nim’s Infusions range of air-dried fruit slices, designed to re-hydrate flavour and colour to drinks, has been a boost to sales as have subscription boxes for our products”.
Meanwhile, Burtons Property Services, which is based on the West Lane Trading Estate on Sittingbourne’s Eurolink and has a team of 13 full-time tradesmen, is having to push some jobs back to January.
Director James Burton said: “For us, we have to work in customers homes. That is what we do, home refurbs, but we have had a few customers, who are elderly or vulnerable, move their jobs back because of the lockdown.
"We usually have about five jobs on at one time. We have put most of the staff on furlough.”
He added: “We have lots of understanding customers, I’m sure we will bounce back again."
As of this morning, the Swale's rate stood at 541.7 per 100,000 people, with Hull not too far behind with 530.1.
The government is expected to make a crunch announcement today about which areas of the country will be in tier one, two or three after England’s lockdown ends on December 2.