The Retail industry has been on a real rollercoaster during the pandemic… So how could we support Independent Retailers after COVID-19?
Convenience stores have always been like a comfort blanket for consumers. In an age where COVID-19 has made public crowds less appealing, independent retail stores have triumphed against their bigger supermarket rivals. Locals no longer want to brave the hustle and bustle of larger supermarkets for basic produce like milk, bread, and eggs.
Larger supermarket chains are adapting to the modern post COVID shopper and are now considering smaller store formats. In the UK, national chains such as Co-op, Waitrose, M&S Food, Tesco, Sainsburys and Spar now all have convenience store formats. And recently, Asda and Iceland have expressed the same interest. Even giant gardening retailer Dobbies has launched the second site of its new brand ‘Little Dobbies’!
But once the COVID storm passes… how can independent retailers continue to flourish?
How will the removal of COVID-19 restrictions affect retail?
Come Monday it could be goodbye to table service and hello to full theatres and nightclubs… well, as long as the removal of restrictions goes ahead, “Freedom Day” as Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls it.
Some consumers are already expressing unease with the idea of shopping without restrictions in case of another COVID-19 wave. Others are eager to shop mask-free, given that almost 53 percent of the country have the double-vaccine. Retailers face the dilemma of trying to cater to both types of customers…
A recent report from YouGov found that 64 percent of Brits plan to keep wearing masks even after the restrictions are lifted. And 40 percent will continue avoiding crowded places.
The decision by the Gov to remove restrictions has been met with ongoing criticism by unions representing UK shop workers. BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said, “The Prime Minister has said he expects people to continue to wear face coverings in many locations that they currently are required to. Retailers are also likely to continue with many of the existing safety measures such as hand sanitiser and Perspex screens.” she told Retail Gazette. “It is vital that the government is as clear as possible as to how they expect people to act after July 19. There has been a big rise in violence and abuse against retail workers during the pandemic. Colleagues cannot be put in the firing line because of this change in policy.”
Ultimately, the continuation of mask wearing restrictions will come down to individual retailers. The government has removed the legal requirements but have said they recommend the wearing of face masks where possible.
This leaves retailers having to decide on their own policies. This is something which has unnerved many as they prefer to get more specific guidance. Retailers will undoubtedly have to be careful and perhaps survey their market to see what will work best for them. What works for one retailer may not work for another.
How could the Government support retailers?
A “Shop Out to Help Out” petition is in motion to encourage the government to introduce a scheme to support the recovery of independent retailers after the lengthy pandemic lockdowns. The petition has been set up by loyalty membership organisation Refundable. This not-for-profit initiative proposes to reward customers with a 50% rebate (maximum £10 per transaction) when shopping in small, independent retailers, with fewer than 10 members of staff.
“Independent retailers have had a very challenging year and it’s crucial that the government steps up to assist the recovery. We really hope that this petition assists in launching the “Shop Out to Help Out” scheme, which we at Refundable believe will result in a much needed, positive transformation of the UK’s high streets,” explained Lee Plaister, owner of Refundable.
They are looking to get the “Shop Out to Help Out” scheme up and running as soon as possible to give retailers the best chance to recover after the pandemic. To do this, they need 10,000 signatures to get a response from the government. But ideally 100,000 signatures for Parliament to even consider discussing the scheme. They encourage both retailers and consumers to sign the petition!
How could we, as consumers help?
During COVID-19 there was a recorded rise in violence and abuse towards retail workers. No matter where you go, it’s important to be considerate, kind and remember that the people serving you are doing their absolute best. Shop assistants will be just as anxious for the removal of restrictions as you are. Not to mention they have to put themselves at risk and serve different people all day long.
If you are still feeling anxious about shopping in public places, why not head to your local independent retailer! With fresh local produce and less people, it will take the edge right off.
Some businesses have decided to rethink the way they do things in a bid to try and survive. In the hopes that they can still connect to their customers, as well as maybe appealing to some new ones. If you’re interested to find out how some independent retailers have adapted to provide for customers during COVID-19, here are some of our favourite innovative stories from an article written by LADBIBLE.
And finally… what is Independents’ Day 2021?
Though store traffic has increased, there’s been more calls for support after many businesses were forced to close their doors due to local lockdowns. The call comes ahead of Independents’ Day 2021 that took place on the 3rd and 4th of July, a campaign supporting and promoting independent retailers.
Independents’ Day UK in partnership with Local Rewards is a campaign to support and promote independent retail businesses across the UK all year round. These independent retailers account for 65% of approx. 290,000 retail outlets in the UK and are at the heart of local communities throughout the country.
Independent retailers offer choice, diversity of product/service, tradition as well as innovation, and a more personal approach to customers. They are also job creators and contributors to local and national economies. And with retail spending under pressure, never have they needed support more.
It’s no secret that shoppers want diversity in their high streets, independent retailers give towns a distinct character and service. So, buy those new clothes, meet your DIY requirements, shop for a piece of kitchenware, get a gift and a card for someone special, treat your pet or just have a coffee and something to eat with an independent outlet will make the world of difference!
As Freedom Day nears, remember to be vigilant, look after your own personal health and be kind to others. And don’t forget to sign the “Shop Out to Help Out” petition! Let’s support those that do so much for us!
Many people are wanting to know, what could travel after COVID-19 look like? If you’re planning a trip after Freedom day and don’t know what to expect, have a read of our most recent blog “Travelling after COVID-19, what could it look like?”