Duchess Kate Visits Small Businesses in First In-Person Engagement Since Pandemic

Omid Scobie
Photo credit: AARON CHOWN - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

After carrying out a stream of virtual appointments over Zoom video chats, and as the U.K. slowly begins to transition back into socially-distanced normality, Duchess Kate has attended her first in-person engagement since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown began in March.

Both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited small businesses in the UK after the government allowed non-essential shops to reopen on June 15. On Thursday, June 18, Kate traveled solo to visit the Fakenham Garden Centre in Norfolk where she met the owners before speaking to staff members.

Photo credit: AARON CHOWN - Getty Images

The family-owned business had been closed for seven weeks before recently reopening to the public, which will have no doubt impacted business. The duchess followed safe practices and kept two-metres apart from staff as she was told about the measures which the garden centre has implemented to ensure that customers are able to visit and shop safely.

Kate is no stranger to Fakenham Garden Centre, which about 20-minutes drive from their Anmer Hall countryside home. She was spotted buying Christmas decorations at the store in 2015 and a year later Prince George showed off his impeccable manners when he ordered a slice of cake and fruit juice from an in-house coffee shop staffer during a visit with his mother.

On Friday morning Prince William visited another local Norfolk business, stopping by at Smiths the Bakers in the Kings Lynn area. The bakery, which has been a local staple for over 50 years, reopened its doors on Monday after 11 weeks of closure.

During his June 19 visit, the duke spoke to owners of the bakery alongside members of staff about how the British government’s COVID-19 restrictions affected sales for the family-run business, with 80% of the company’s wholesale customers having to close their own operations.

Photo credit: AARON CHOWN - Getty Images

William was told how the business had to furlough a number of staff members and how they have adapted its business model during lockdown by operating a delivery service to local residents, and selling new lines of products to meet the demand for baking ingredients such as flour and sugar.

The Cambridge’s local business visits come after the Queen, Patron of the British Chambers of Commerce, sent a message of support to business communities as they continue to reopen. “As many organisations around the country are reopening, I send my warmest best wishes and support to business communities throughout the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and across the world,” she wrote. “At a time of great difficulty for many, it is heart-warming to see the civic response and generosity of so many businesses, small and large, to the challenges posed, whether supporting the health sector or vulnerable communities.”

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