‘Get out there and spend money’ is the message Chancellor Rishi Sunak has sent out to the public for when shops re-open on April 12. While this rally call was warmly received by greeting card retailers who are counting down the days until they can reopen, his offer of allowing non-essential shops in England to stay open until 10pm, six days a week, from April 12, has received an icy response from independent card and gift shops, who largely see it as bringing no positive benefit to their respective businesses.
“The mirage of the level playing field we saw on the horizon has again evaporated,” states Liz Killick, co-owner of Calladoodles in Carshalton. Of the extended hours measure, Liz feels this will be “of very little benefit to small traders such as ourselves, many of whom have no spare hours to give. Even if we have staff, there’s no magic money pot to pay extra wages.”
Elaborating, Liz highlighted that it has been tough coping with juggling locked-down families, learning to transfer to online sales, and shouldering mounting debts incurred over the past year – while supermarkets and garden centres have been allowed to sell ‘non-essentials’. And now, just when we are on the brink of re-opening “we find that those larger concerns that have the resources and capacity to open for longer hours will soak up the financial rewards of ‘after hours’ trade too. The only vaguely possible benefit to the public is the opportunity to shop in potentially less crowded conditions.”
However, despite everything, Liz assures that all at Calladoodles “are raring to open again and really looking forward to seeing our lovely customers!”
Another respected card indie who does not think much of the Chancellor’s decision on allowing shops to stay open until 10pm is Tina Botterill, co-owner of Cool! Cards & Gifts in Skipton.
“Ridiculous – I’m just going to bed then!” states Tina. “It will push up overheads and I am not convinced it will bring in a lot more business.”
At Mooch Gifts & Home, co-owner Jon May believes: “offering extended hours to retailers will have little effect within the small towns where we trade – Bewdley and Stourport-on-Severn,” and as such is planning to open for normal trading hours. “I’m sure larger chains in cities will take advantage. However, with extra staff hours and other associated costs, I wonder if even they will find it profitable,” Jon added.
Shop Out to Help Out?
Retail guru Mary Portas is among the well-known names pressing for the government to consider a Shop Out to Help Out discount scheme.
The concept, echoing last summer’s Eat Out To Help Out initiative, would see the government covering 50% of the goods bought from independent non-essential retailers, with a limit of £10.
It would run for a month, from Monday to Wednesday, and would be limited to independent retailers, selling in physical stores, with less than 10 staff. Shoppers would receive one discount per transaction.
Top: Calladoodles in Carshalton.