This time next week, many independent card and gift retailers in England will hopefully be breathing an exhilarating sigh of relief having re-opened their shops doors next Monday (June 15) after being closed for well over two months due to lockdown restrictions. High street card retailers in Northern Ireland (though not those located in shopping centres) will have had a three-day lead as they have the go-ahead to open their doors from this Friday (June 12).
Meanwhile indies in Scotland were relieved to hear First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at her coronavirus briefing yesterday that, following no new Covid-19 deaths in the country for the last two days that its ‘non-essential’ retail lockdown restrictions could be lifted there soon, with further confirmation expected next Thursday (18 June), the same day that news is expected from the Welsh Government giving card stockists there giving the thumbs-up to re-open.
That all said, there is a general feeling of trepidation as indies (and many publishers supplying them for that matter) rush to put their final plans in place in good time for Monday’s D-Day.
Join Us For A Cheers For Cardies Toast
In a show of support for the entire industry, PG Buzz is to host a ‘Cheers for Cardies’ Zoom ‘happy half-hour’ this coming Thursday (11 June) between 6pm and 6.30pm. Anyone can ‘pop-in’ with their chosen beverage, be it a G&T or mug of tea, and toast to the industry’s good health and a successful re-opening. Anyone who would like to join the toasting should email Jakki Brown on firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Thursday.
One retailer who will be there, with her favoured tipple of a glass of beer in hand, is Sarah Laker, owner of Marple Stationery Supplies, a card and stationery shop. Having shaved all her hair off recently, raising over £5,000 in the process for local charity, Mellor Country House, Sarah has embraced the ‘hair-raising’ ride to the re-opening, in more ways than one.
“When we all went into lockdown, we knew what to expect. Now though as we prepare to re-open we do not know how people will behave, what they expect from us retailers or whether the measures we are all putting in place to protect us all against the further spread of the coronavirus will work,” Sarah Laker, owner of Marple Stationers commented to PG Buzz.
After talking to customers Sarah has taken the decision not to open the whole shop as before. “Instead I’m going to serve them just inside the shop, from a table. I usually get 50-80 customers a day through the shop, and as my shop is all about the feel, cards and stationery are very sensual products. This would then mean that I wouldn’t know what had been touched, and what hadn’t and with guidelines being unclear over the transmission of the virus I feel the safest thing all round is to limit what customers touch. This way I can quarantine items if needed, or clean them, and I also know that when I go out to deliver to my most vulnerable customers who are shielding at home that the items I take them are as clean as they can be,” says Sarah.
Local artist Dominic Phillips has created some bespoke social distancing art on the area just outside the shop and Sarah is ensuring that she has a strong card display in the window. She plans to open 10am-4pm, but will also be offering appointments for customers who are worried about standing in queues and still be doing deliveries daily to customers shielding at home and also offering online sales.
“Everything I have done since the beginning of lockdown has been with my customers’ best interests at heart. I have consulted them every step of the way and asked them what they wanted from me and my shop. They overwhelmingly wanted to support me and to keep my business alive, and for that I am so grateful. And now as we slowly begin the long road back to a more familiar life, I am so grateful for their support. Not only that they have bought from me but that they have shown their gratitude in other ways. I’ve had so many little gifts from children’s drawing to cake, pate, a hand painted stone, a knitted heart, and even a cap to keep my head warm after I’d braved the shave!” reveals Sarah.
Top: Sarah Laker and her husband Matthew doing some ‘socially distanced’ hair shearing!