Supporting independent and family-run businesses in Cumbria is at the very heart of Newsquest Cumbria.

The publisher of The Mail, News and Star, The Cumberland News, The Westmorland Gazette, The Whitehaven News, The Times and Star and The Hexham Courant, understands more than most the importance of SMEs in the county.

Following on from offering free adverts and free business listings, Newsquest Cumbria has printed signage, explaining social distancing regulations, to help small businesses keep their staff and customers safe.

As shops start to reopen post Covid many will still be struggling from the the financial burden of the pandemic. To try and mitigate some of that concern, Newsquest Cumbria, is offering free signage to help businesses move towards the ‘new norm’.

Robert Wood, Newsquest Cumbria’s Regional Marketing Manager, has been helping to print the signs for newsagents so they can explain to customers how their business is being run in the age of social distancing.

Like many small businesses, most newsagents must only allow one or two customers into the shop at a time in order to maintain two metre social distancing.

Mr Wood said: “With lockdown easing, the smaller newsagents can no longer have 10 to 15 people in at one time so we have come up with a way to help them with that. We’ve helped them out with some signage to let people know how they can protect themselves and the shop's staff.”

Mr Wood developed the idea having seen many newsagents make their own hand written signs to display in the window, to let customers know about their arrangements."

He decided to use Newsquest’s resources to support the all of newsagents who stock the company's local newspapers and magazines.

The signs are hoped to give customers confidence in the safety measures taken at all of the local stores and in turn hopefully give customers the confidence to return to the high street.

Mr Wood said: “A lot of people are still nervous about going back into the town centres.

"But if our local businesses are going to survive and make it to the other side of covid-19 we need to support them.

"By helping them instil confidence into their customers we hope this will help shoppers feel confident to return to the high street and shop local."

High streets saw an influx of shoppers when non-essential shops reopen on June 15 but consumer confidence is still at an all time low.

Before the Government started to ease lockdown restrictions, Newsquest Cumbria was working with local newsagents to keep bringing local news to residents.

Mr Wood said: “We started off supporting newsagents with home delivery.

"Newsquest Cumbria products reach 87 per cent of the people in the county.

"During a global pandemic more people than ever have turned to our trusted news products for the latest up-to-date advice and information.

“The main aim of our early campaign was to promote our titles and remind people that we were still here for them. A lot of people weren’t able to go out and buy them, but were relying on us for information."

The free service was arranged for those who could not leave their homes for essential shopping during lockdown. Newsquest was able to send its trusted titles to the customer’s nearest registered newsagent to be delivered. Stores that registered in the home delivery scheme were recognised in Newsquest titles free of charge, the scheme was designed to support local newsagents.

Newsquest worked with local newsagents on the home delivery scheme including Ainslie Street News and Early News in Barrow as well as Martin’s in Ulverston.

Newsagents in the north of Cumbria involved in the home delivery service included Stanwix News and Notman’s Newsagents in Carlisle, Michelson’s in Brampton, Easton’s in Wigton and King Street News in Penrith. These stores are also set to receive the signage on social distancing guidelines.

Signage will be rolled-out by the end of the week and will be available to all newsagents selling Newsquest products.