In what has come as a huge dampener of spirits (and Christmas sales) for many greeting card retailers in, tomorrow at 6pm (November 19) sees non-essential shops in 11 council areas in Scotland having to close for three weeks, only able to reopen on December 11.
Announcing the tough coronavirus restrictions yesterday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered the news that few wanted to hear, that Level 4 restrictions covering ‘non-essential retailers’ are being imposed in a large swathe of the country, which covers Glasgow, Stirling, West Lothian as well as parts of Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. As in England, garden centres are being allowed to continue to trade.
Fiona Fabien, owner of Papyrus, a landmark card and gift retailer in Glasgow eloquently shared her “bitter disappointment” at the decision on BBC news.
As Fiona she told PG Buzz: “I did realise that a lockdown would probably be inevitable at some point, and hoped it would be after Christmas. Hindsight is a great thing, and now we think it would have been better to lockdown at the same time as England in November. I am very pleased for other areas in Scotland who will not have to lockdown and can continue to trade in this crucial period.”
Quantifying the likely drop in sales as a result, she revealed “in common with many card and gift stores, we take more than 20% of our annual turnover in the four weeks before Christmas. There was talk of a 4-week lockdown – so when Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement – I was almost relieved that it would last three weeks (hopefully) and that we can now expect to have 12 days trading before Christmas.”
It will be on Papyrus’ Christmas card sales that Fiona feels will feel the big dent: “These three weeks would have been our peak selling time for Christmas cards, especially packs – sales that can’t be caught up after 12 December.”
Taking a broader view Fiona accepts, “We realise and accept that the government have little choice and it is necessary to drive the infection rates down, to save lives and protect the NHS.
So many individuals and business are suffering in these unprecedented times. We are extremely relieved that the staff will receive 80% of their wages in the furlough scheme though unfortunately the cash grants that we received during first lockdown won’t be available this time. I am, like so many others wishing that next year brings better times and more hope.”
Fellow Scottish retailer, Jeanette Park-Patterson, co-owner of Bluestone Gift Shops, which won a Retas award last July, admitted that the decision deals a big “blow” to retail trade. “We were extremely disappointed when we heard the news, although not surprised. We have four shops in Scotland, but thankfully only one of these is affected by us being put into Tier 4. As this is one of our busiest shops, it is a blow, especially at this time of year.”
Like many others in Scotland, as well as its counterparts in England, Jeannette highlights that the “proactive approach” they took during the first lockdown in helping customers with their purchases, with free local delivery etc has helped to build a loyal following which will continue for the coming three weeks.
Meanwhile, the petition entitled ‘Non-essential’ shops should be allowed to stay open during the current lockdown’ that was spearheaded by London-based Cards Galore director Rumit Shah has now gathered well over 4,000 signatures. Click here to add your name to the petition.
This forms part of a concerted campaign, being driven by the GCA to push for specialist card shops to be able to open, on December 2 at the very least.
In a big thumbs-up for the industry, GCA’s ceo Amanda Fergusson, together with the IRC (Independent Retailers Confederation) has managed to secure a meeting with Paul Scully, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Minister for London, which is due to take place on December 1 at which Amanda will be raising the industry’s concerns.
Top: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivering the news that card retailers in Scotland did not want to hear.