With rumbles circulating that the retail lockdown in England could well have been extended it came as a relief when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday (November 23) that as part of the Winter Plan, non-essential retailers will most definitely be allowed to reopen in England on December 2. This also adds another Christmas trading day back in for card retailers as it had previously been announced that lockdown would end on December 2 with the shops able to reopen on December 3.
This confirmation of the end of Lockdown 2 for card shops in England comes after a hard-fought collective campaign by the greeting card community for the Government to recognise greeting card retailers as being ‘essential’ due to the important role greeting cards play.
“Confirmation that greeting card shops in England are definitely able to re-open on December 2 is what we all needed to hear. Full credit to all the GCA members for pulling together, in writing to their MPs, contacting the media to highlight the plight while we as a trade association have been able to speak with a united voice in the media as well as galvanise strength from our strong links with other bodies, such as the IRC to make our sector’s plight heard,” said Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA.
Despite all their tenacious efforts, few greeting card retailers accept that they will not be able to make up for the three weeks trading that has been lost at such a crucial time, but are raring to go to make the most of the final festive push.
“It’s hard to get too excited after so many lost sales, but after the uncertainty of ‘will they extend the lockdown measures?’ it was obviously great to hear that we will be able to re-open at the beginning of December. The fact that the government’s new rules start at the beginning of the 2nd but the old ones run till 00:01 on the 3rd sums up how they’ve handled the whole thing really!” highlights Mark Janson-Smith, managing director of the Postmark group. “Thanks to a bumper few days before lockdown 2.0 started and strong click and collect and web sales means we will only be 50% down which we are very happy with.
The biggest challenge now will be getting enough customers through the door to try and make up the losses due to social distancing measures but we strongly feel customers will come out in their numbers and sales will be strong.”
His words are echoed by Sally Matson, owner of Red Card in Petworth. As she told PG Buzz: “We will now all be under huge pressure to provide even better customer service than we have ever done under the extra strain of social distancing, reduced customer numbers in the shops, reduced ability to get additional stock in at short lead times, which will all actually add up to the next month being extraordinarily hard work with a great deal of extra pressure. Most businesses I know will be open every day, many with extended hours. So, I think the most important thing will be to keep zen!”
As Marion and Mark Flaherty, co-owners of Best Wishes in Garstang summed up: “We’re so looking forward to seeing our customers again and fingers crossed to get the till ringing for Christmas. However, we won’t be booking a cruise based on this year’s seasonal figures though!”
Letters from the House
Laurence Prince, founder of Danilo and Peter Goodman, co-owner of Heritage Art & Design were among the publishers to have received a response from high up in the Government in recognition of the role greeting cards and greeting card retailers are playing.
“I understand that these remain extremely challenging times for retailers, particularly as restrictions have come at an important trading period for the sector. The Government recognises that greeting cards play an important part in helping stave off feelings of loneliness and improving mental health, especially for those who are self-isolating.“I understand that these remain extremely challenging times for retailers, particularly as restrictions have come at an important trading period for the sector. The Government recognises that greeting cards play an important part in helping stave off feelings of loneliness and improving mental health, especially for those who are self-isolating.
I sincerely appreciate the effort and expense retailers have made to make their premises COVID-Secure – these efforts mean we have not seen high rates of transmission in retail premises,” wrote Amanda Solloway MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – Minister for Science, Research and Innovation in her considered response which explained that the Govt feel the measures taken in Lockdown 2 ‘strike the right balance to help contain the virus.’