While card retailers in Wales are enjoying being open again after the country’s 17-day firebreak, card specialists in England are upping the pressure on the Government for a U-turn that would allow them to trade during Lockdown 2.
A petition entitled ‘Non-essential’ shops should be allowed to stay open during the current lockdown’ (instigated by Cards Galore’s director Rumit Shah, pictured top) has been granted official status by the UK Government with everyone in the greeting card community and beyond now being urged to add their name in a show of support.
The thrust of the petition is to allow ‘non-essential’ shops to stay open during the lockdown, including greeting card shops, florists, clothes and shoe shops, electronics shops, music shops as long as they have taken all the COVID secure measures.
Click here to add your name to the petition.
As the text on the petition’s page highlights, ‘the Government’s definition of ‘non-essential’ is superficial and not all-encompassing. Although not selling food or medicine, these shops still create employment, preserve livelihoods, are valued by communities and sell goods that improve morale; therefore, they are undoubtedly ‘essential’ in more ways than one. Furthermore, when closed due to lockdown, their trade is absorbed by larger supermarkets and online businesses, creating unfair competition and risking their survival in the long-term.’
Once 10,000 ‘signatures’ are collected the Government will respond to the petition while if 100,000 names pledge their support, the matter will be considered for debate in Parliament.
This petition forms part of the Greeting Card Shops are Essential campaign, which, while spearheaded by Cards Galore’s Rumit Shah last week galvanised support from the industry almost immediately. As reported on PG Buzz on Friday (November 6), the GCA, with support from leading specialist card retailers, sent a letter to Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as well as to Paul Scully, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Minister for London to put the point of view across as to how the lockdown 2 restrictions in England are unfairly penalising greeting card retailers. (https://www.pgbuzz.net/the-industry-campaigns-for-greeting-card-shops-to-be-recognised-as-essential/)
The campaign has also gained ground with publishers and retailers contacting their local MPs as well as the media on the issue, stressing both the importance of greeting cards for the public’s psyche as well as the financial damage to retailers and suppliers with this lockdown coming at such a crucial time for trade.
Interviewed on the early morning BBC News programme yesterday morning (Monday 9) Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA delivered a valiant call out for greeting cards, stressing how they have come into their own during the pandemic.
With the BBC presenter highlighting how many card retailers are not allowed to open during this lockdown, Amanda was able to respond, stressing how “essential” greeting cards are enabling people to respond and to “urge the Government to reconsider and allow specialist card shops to reopen.”
Amplifying Amanda’s message, independent retailer Jon May, co-owner of Mooch (with shops in Bewdley and Stourport-on-Severn) appeared on BBC Hereford & Worcester.
“I detailed that this month’s forced closure will have triple the damage financially of the previous three months in March as we are in now what is known as the ‘Golden Quarter’ – I stressed that we need to reopen in December or face a severe financial headache,” Jon told PG Buzz. “I was asked how the first weekend of online sales had gone I said it was not the same as having two stores open, but how we were pleased with the orders received as we have been well supported.”
Meanwhile down in Cornwall, Pam and Bob Malin, co-owners of Occasions and LisKards (two card shops in Liskeard, Cornwall) made contact with BBC Cornwall radio station submitting a photo of the socially distanced queue outside their shops taken the day before the lockdown as proof of the public’s appetite for specialist card shops.
As Pam told PG Buzz: “Thanks to a campaign in Wales during the last two weeks, the purchase of greeting cards was allowed after a change of policy. I think people of Cornwall and the rest of England should have the same opportunity to send cards to aid mental well-being in the lead-up to Christmas. Just before Lockdown 2 we had triple the usual number of customers stocking up on their ‘essential’ cards and I am sure if you asked them the question, the answer would “YES, cards are essential”. I hope everyone’s efforts help the push to get card and stationery shops classed as ‘essential’.”
In addition to the members of the media, MPs have been inundated with emails, phone calls and letters from greeting card retailers, publishers and agents in their constituencies.
Putting her argument across to her local MP David Warburton at the start of this week, independent sales agent for the South West Rose Trow stressed: “Greeting cards are essential; they are providing a vital tangible connection between people at a time when we cannot see each other. To continue to penalise card and gift shops who sell them, retailers who have ensured that their stores are safe places to shop, is just wrong – especially at a time that is so crucial to their livelihoods. We all want to fight this pandemic, but forcing shops to close who have played no part in its spread is just not fair, to the retailers, their customers and their suppliers.”
The New Ways and Means
Having benefitted from a last hectic shopping frenzy from customers just before Lockdown 2 came into effect last Thursday (5 November), card shops in England are now adjusting to the ways of working that are open to them – from various permutations of ‘Click & Collect’, local deliveries, product showcases on social media and virtual shopping services.
Priya and Dominic Aurora-Crowe, co-owners of Lark London (six card, gift and lifestyle stores in London) have come up a different idea to “help save our shops; to help save our high street.”
Its new ‘pick and go’ service works by customers coming to ‘counter’ in the doorway of the shops, who tell the assistant what they want, the assistant retrieves it from the shopfloor, and the customer pays for it and takes it away.
Click here to see the video.
“Simple, like a takeaway coffee,” explains Priya on the explanatory little video that launches the service. “Let’s keep our shops open; let’s keep it legal. Pick and go!”
While Lark does have an ecommerce side (Priya was one of the panellists for the at the GCA Conference and AGM last week about online selling) as she points out the advantage of ‘pick and go’ face-to-face service is that it is open to customers who do not use online shopping. “It seems only logical that click and collect could work harmoniously with ‘pick and go’ as they are equally safe and appeal to different types of customer which could consequently help the survival of many retailers,” adds Priya.
Top: Rumit Shah, director of Cards Galore has instigated the petition in pursuit of non-essential shops being able to reopen in England.