With only a couple of days to go before wearing of face coverings in shops in England becomes compulsory, greeting card retailers and gift shops are not only relieved that clarity has eventually been given by the Government, but are also benefitting from the surging sales of reusable facemasks, with demand outstripping supply for many retailers.
“Face masks should have been compulsory in shops from the moment we were allowed to re-open,” stated Serge Summerling, owner of Nor in London’s Norwood. “Once again the government is two steps behind the more competently run nations!”
Tim Gould, co-owner of Objectables in Folkestone was similarly frustrated by the Government’s tardiness in coming out with defined guidance and up to £100 fine for those flaunting the rules, unless there is good reason.
“I felt really let down by Michael Gove’s comments saying that it’s probably a good idea but we should just rely on the British public to do the polite thing. Before Matt Hancock’s announcement, roughly a fifth of our customers were wearing masks. It felt as though people agreed masks are a good idea they weren’t wearing them, even though they have them in their pockets!”
Some retailers, such as House of Cards have made mask wearing a stipulation of entering its stores since they re-opened.
“Safety of our team and other customers has been paramount. If people do not have their own masks we have provided disposable ones for them. The vast majority of customers have accepted this, but it will make it easier now we have the Government ruling,” said Miles Robinson, co-owner of the Home Counties retail group.
Up in Scotland, where mask wearing in shops has been compulsory since July 10, Fiona Fabian, owner of Papyrus in Glasgow believes that while having to wear a face covering may have dissuaded some customers it has to be balanced with the soaring sales of the products in store.
“I was wary that compulsory masks in shop would effect footfall as they can be pretty claustrophobic. Supermarkets can’t be avoided as we have to buy food to eat, but would customers still want to come and browse in a card and gift shop?” wondered Fiona. “Compulsory masks in shops began on Friday 10 July and business is still up on last year, however we were not as busy at the weekend the ruling came into effect as we were the previous weekend. I do think though that the public are just getting used to the mask wearing and 95% of our customers are now wearing them. Some customers who are not wearing them make a beeline to our masks and buy one.”
Fiona said Papyrus is selling around 60 reusable masks a day (sourced from Faye UK and Euro Stick, which is producing some tartan ones which have proved popular). “Mask sales have been an unforeseen but welcome trend!” In addition, she is selling handbag sized sanitiser sprays from Mad Beauty and Container Group Buying.
Views on the News
Here other greeting card retailers share their views:
Nik Gornall, owner of Romantica, Bristol: “I welcomed the news and question why it wasn’t mandatory from the 15 June. I also eagerly await the first excuse from a government minister or advisor as to why the rule doesn’t apply to them! I believe it will reassure the majority of people but as with any social rule there will be a minority who will react adversely either as a point of principle or because they don’t believe the science. I foresee a slight drop in takings as there will be customers who simply don’t have a face covering or who have left theirs at home while they go to pick up their kids from school or playgroup.
We have an order placed with Eco Chic for face masks but they have been inundated with orders so am awaiting a delivery! I am also planning to a supply of disposable masks available to sell to customers at cost price if they don’t have one.”
Rachael Barnes, co-owner of Dragonfly Gifts, Knaresborough: “We literally just ordered Eco Chic’s masks the weekend when it was looking likely that they were going to become mandatory We liked theirs as they are machine washable and made out of recycled plastic bottles. I just hope it doesn’t put too many people off shopping as I’ve seen a lot of negative comments flying around social media.”
Heidi Robinson co-owner of Little Paperie, Ashbourne: “We are happy with the government decision but understand that there are still people that can’t wear them for medical reasons etc so will still leave it to people’s own judgement when shopping with us. At the moment I think people don’t bother because the majority aren’t wearing them but now We are stocking a brand called Britmask It’s a friend of ours who has developed them and they are super comfortable, breathable and washable and have antibacterial coatings for lots of protection for the wearer and for others. Sales have been going well and have boomed since the government’s announcement. We have got some funky leopard print ones that Lucy Robinson, co-owner made which we have been wearing too but now with the need to wear them more, the breathable ones are definitely better for us!”
Jon May, co-owner of Mooch Gifts & Home in Bewdley and Stourport on Severn: “As soon as the announcement was made our online store went into meltdown, with people waiting outside to buy when we opened the following morning, meaning we sold out in minutes. We then had a large delivery but 90% immediately sold online, with further deliveries expected.
I really do think it’s a positive move to help boost the confidence of shoppers, although actually policing and enforcing it shouldn’t really be the job of shop staff, so let’s hope we see a more physical presence of the police on our high streets.”
Serge Summerling, Nor, Norwood: “Face masks should have been compulsory in shops from the moment we were allowed to re-open – once again this useless government is two steps behind the more competently run nations.
We are selling lots of masks…buying direct from Turkey (our own ones), and some from Portugal, as well as some from ArtWow.”
Louise Rolfe, owner of The Present in Barnet, North London: “I bought a starter pack from Eco Chic to try them out a few weeks ago and literally sold out in one weekend. I re-ordered immediately and have sold out again, had just placed another order before Boris’ announcement. I now have a list of customers I need to call when the new masks arrive. Even then, I don’t think I’ve ordered enough as people are buying four to six at a time. I suspect they’ll continue selling well in the weeks to come too!”