A year like no other: how one Wellingborough locksmiths survived lockdown and floods

First came lockdown and then came the devastating August floods

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:16 pm

"The town centre will never recover" - the opinion of one Wellingborough business owner whose family firm has remained loyal to the 'high street' for more than 65 years.

But the effect of Covid on shopping habits has made co-director Val Wilson think hard about the future of the traditional way of retail being centralised.

Rutherfords Locksmiths Ltd, a stalwart in Wellingborough's Market Street, offer a full range of locksmith and security services as well as watches and accessories, and all manner of engraved trophies, shields and giftware.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Val Wilson

All backed up with a strong online shop, the store suffered an extraordinary year of lockdown, with massive changes to business topped off by being flooded by the torrential August 16 downpours that left the premises under water and debris.

Val said: "There's nothing to compare the last year to. We still have two members of staff on furlough. We've got another self-isolating and we've had two with Covid who are both fine.

"We have another on part-furlough because people just don't want a locksmith in their home.

"The business has really changed. There are no private customers and there's not one who we are not on first name terms. We deal with the police, hospitals and the council.

Val Wilson with the drains in Market Street, Wellingborough

"At the start we were busy making Covid signs for businesses. We were sending out a couple of hundred a day, it's slowed down but we still send out 20 to 30 a day."

Val and the team including co-directors Wayne Brooks, Tim Nolan and her husband Michael, have been allowed to stay open as an essential business.

They have moved much of their business online but have had their doors open to provide their key cutting services to estate agents in the town. With the move to virtual and home schooling, their trophy and engraving service has been very quiet.

Val said: "There's no sports so no trophies. Schools haven't awarded prizes for the best pupils because they haven't been able to judge them.

Val cleans up the flood water

"We have been doing giftware on our Amazon and Etsy sites and we sell engraved trinket boxes, so financially we're doing about the same."

One huge set back was as a result of the floods that hit the town on Sunday August 16 that left the shop under a wave of filthy water, ruining stock and fittings.

Seven months on with an insurance claim for £25,000 for the losses paid out, members of staff are still finding water-logged boxes on shelves and counters had to be replaced due to the flood damage.

Val thinks the pandemic will have a lasting effect on the town centre.

She said: "The town centre will never recover. We've lost too many small businesses. It (the pandemic) has changed the way we shop. Some people quite like the way we can shop online. It can be easy and the pandemic has altered perceptions - you might not want to mix with a lot of people.

"We are getting rid of the car parks in the town centre and Rushden Lakes has put a nail in the coffin.

"You have to adapt and change and that's what we have done."