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Spalding shop owner urges shoppers to help town centre bounce back from lockdown

A Spalding trader wants shoppers to "get our sense of humour back" and help the town recover from the impact of coronavirus lockdown.

Gary Parkinson, owner of fancy dress shop Parky's Pranks, in The Crescent, described trading as "terrible" and warned that Spalding was becoming a "ghost town".

Non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen again on June 15 after an easing of lockdown restrictions by the Government.

Gary Parkinson outside his joke shop, Parky's Pranks, in The Crescent, Spalding.Photo by Chris Lowndes.
Gary Parkinson outside his joke shop, Parky's Pranks, in The Crescent, Spalding.Photo by Chris Lowndes.

But Gary, who opened what has been called "The World's Smallest Joke Shop" in 2011, fears traders in The Crescent are being impacted by a "dramatic decrease in footfall".

He said: "Everything is really quiet because you've not got the people walking about.

"On Saturday it was like a ghost town and if you haven't got the people walking by, you won't get the trade.

"Things have been terrible and other traders have seen a dramatic decrease in footfall.

"People just don't feel safe in a crowd, even when all the shops are accommodating themselves to be COVID-aware.

"We need to get our sense of humour back because in this part of town, we're safe to visit and everything is in place."

Gary admitted that the current trading conditions reminded him of how things were when opened Party's Pranks nine years ago.

"In 2011, there was a recession going and people weren't spending much money," Gary said.

"I used to go out in a van selling tools and workwear.

"But then the recession came and it was all doom and gloom.

"My wife at the time said to me: 'You're a fun guy and the world needs cheering up, so why not open a joke shop?'

"I was in The Crescent one day and came across this corner shop with no lighting or heating.

"I thought to myself: 'Who would have that as a shop?' but when I found out that the last person who had it was called Mr Bean, I thought how apt it would be to have it."

Gary's shop went on to make national news in February 2017 when it was featured on BBC TV's The One Show.

"It was a fun day and the BBC team said to me it's probably one of the smallest joke shops they have ever seen," Gary said.

"They said it was a bit like a triangle and it's the wackiest shop in Spalding.

"But I don't know how much longer that will be the case because it's been so quiet."

Gary accepted that South Holland District Council had played its part in making the town centre safe for shoppers to return to, with a one-way system and range of signage put in place.

"People have to get over the fear factor because they're just not walking around," he said.

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