Retailers are appealing to customers to support their local shops to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated high street trade.
“It’s really important people go back to using their high street,” said Gary Grant, the owner of toy chain The Entertainer. “We employ local people in local towns and if I want to hold on to my staff I need turnover.”
The SME club has been campaigning to help local shops - #savetheshops and save our local high streets and communities since the COVID pandemic started. Now they are open we urge everyone to keep your local high streets open and buoyant as it benefits everyone.
Thousands of stores, selling everything from clothing to footwear, books and electrical equipment, will reopen in England on Monday as the government lifts restrictions on non-essential shops that were imposed at the height of the pandemic in March. The lockdown has already cost non-food retailers around £1.7bn a week in lost sales, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The number of people venturing out to shop in May was only 20% compared to last year, according to the monthly British Retail Consortium-ShopperTrak survey. Despite the lifting of restrictions, the BRC experts predict only a modest pick-up in the coming days.
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said that even as retailers reopened there was “still a risk that many physical shops could end up closing their doors again – only this time, permanently”.
The BRC said retailers were in dire straits, and called on the government to temporarily cut VAT to help boost demand. “A mix of low consumer confidence and limits on the number of people able to enter stores mean that many shops will continue to suffer lower footfall – and lower sales – for some time to come,” Dickinson explained.
Early trends already showed huge queues for multinational chains such as Primark but the concern is that the cash poor local shops who have struggled to reopen need to cover costs and make up for lost earnings in the last 3 months so they are urging communities to queue outside their shops and not the larger chains.
Even with shops open, Britons need to feel confident it is safe to return. A recent poll by the Royal Society for Public Health found about half of the respondents planned to visit the high street less frequently than before the pandemic despite widespread new safety measures.
Stores in European countries, such as France and Italy, which are several weeks ahead of the UK in emerging from the lockdown, have seen footfall rise by about 15 to 25 percentage.