“Relieved, to say the least…at least we now finally have a date to work to!” exclaimed James Taylor, director of Cardzone summing up the sentiment felt by most greeting card retailers at the ‘roadmap’ announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday (February 22) which detailed April 12 being the reopening date (as long as all has gone to plan) for non-essential retailers. “Seven weeks still feels a long time away but at least we can finally plan new product launches with actual solid delivery dates. Hopefully this time around the streets will be busier with customers who previously didn’t feel comfortable and safe shopping before, being able to shop with confidence now they’ve been vaccinated! We are under no illusions though that the high street trade we all remember will not return for good any time soon”
While card retailers in England are frustrated that Boris’ “one way road to freedom” will see them missing out on instore sales for Mother’s Day and Easter, at least the likely reopening date is two weeks earlier than Scottish card retailers are having to accept as a result of Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement yesterday (February 23), which means they have to wait until April 26 at the earliest to reopen.
Heidi Early, co-owner of Earlybird Designs in London’s Stoke Newington appeared on BBC News sharing her perspective as an independent card retailer.
“As I said I couldn’t quite believe we put away our Easter stock last year and still can’t get it back on our shelves this year! But I said that I am happy with the roadmap and can’t wait for the 12th!” Heidi told PG Buzz.
“At least it’s a start!” accepts John Procter, md and co-founder of Scribbler. “We are feeling relatively confident that, as a result of the vaccination rollout, pent up demand and simply the ability to leave your house, business could well be brisk – certainly better than the last time we came out of lockdown. Staycations will also help boost sales hugely. Central London though will remain a challenge as, in my opinion, it will take some considerable time for office workers to return in significant numbers.”
Sarah Henderson, co-owner of 3 Wishes (a group of shops in Dorset and Hampshire) is also happy to have a date to work towards now “it allows us to start planning orders to ensure we re-open with a good level of stock and some new designs/products. At least we know what to expect when we re-open this time.”
While “sorry to be missing Mothering Sunday and Easter – as well as Valentine’s – but was expecting that,” Richard Baker, owner of Cilla & Camilla in Beaminster, Bridport and Sherbourne said he would “prefer a cautious approach which is genuinely irreversible. We’re confident about future trade – we saw a quick and strong bounce back from previous periods of closure. We expect the same this time.”
“Yay! Finally a date (with the caveat that it could change!). Although seven weeks away with Mother’s Day and Easter in between and so therefore not the Spring Season I would have hoped, the fact that there is a date and that the news of a summer with no restrictions will make it worth it,” says Tabi Marsh
We now just need businesses rate relief to be extended like in Scotland and furlough extended for a bit longer (as we are half coffee shop so will have a few more months of no operating normally) and then I might actually be able to breathe and sleep properly again!!”
Scotland’s waiting game…
Spirits were dashed for greeting card retailers in Scotland somewhat with Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement yesterday that the retail lockdown in that country was going to extend until towards the end of April, two weeks after their counterparts in England.
David Robertson, md of JP Pozzi (with shops in Buckie and Elgin) vented his feelings yesterday… “All of Scottish business has been gasping for air since we were plunged into lockdown on Boxing Day.
No trade, no Click & Collect and little hope resulted in us gulping for some fresh air today to fill our lungs for the last lap of this. Everyone I know needed that.
What we got was further delays, negativity and not even a clear message – 5th April a slight loosening of essential shops, 26th April for non-essential if we are lucky.
We will now have been locked down for 17 weeks (longer than the first time) with a fraction of the support while we watch supermarkets vastly expand their gift and card offering. We watch places like the Factory store install massive balloon and party areas. By the time we can open what will be left for us? When we can open it will be into Tier 3 and that is complicated especially for the hospitality sector that town centres need to make their ecosystem work.
There’s still no long-term indication other than NDR exemption for a year. A system out of step with the UK that relies on the Chancellor for details and a feeling tonight of utter dejection.
Many of my friends will seriously be contemplating walking away. They will have no desire to borrow more money – they will not know how they will come back from this now and more importantly in the months and years to come.”
Denise Laird, owner of Spirito in Glasgow is another retailer is disappointed at the announcement, although accepts “at least we now have a provisional timescale to work to and we will make plans to ensure that we are ready to hit the ground running at that time – and we have the potential of resuming Click & Collect from the 5th April.” However, she highlights how “one of the biggest frustrations during this lockdown is that we will have missed all the key occasions of Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and Easter and we will be re-opening at a time where we enter our traditionally quieter trading period of the year. In normal years May and especially June would see a useful boost from teacher’s gifts, but we are not sure how that will pan out this year.”
Scottish agent, Corinne Forbes echoes David’s and Denise’s disappointment about the news for Scotland’s card retailers. “Last year our lockdown went on for two weeks longer in the summer and it is hard when everyone else in the UK is busy and you are still stuck at home! We didn’t get a confirmed date today for non-essential retail to open however my feelings are it will definitely be towards the end of April – it just feels so far away! I was also disappointed at the thought of going back into any kind of tier system – I think we have all had it with tiers – some areas open and some closed. So…Boris going for it with dates (maybe a bit gung-ho) and Nicola being as cautious as ever. What option do we all have but to do but get on with it really?!”
Top: Prime Minister Boris Johnson talking at the Press Briefing on Monday evening.