‘It couldn’t go on any longer’: Scottish retailers brace for reopening
For Lynne Roberts, owner of a small Italian ceramics store in Edinburgh’s New Town, the easing of tomorrow’s lockdown cannot come soon enough.
“It couldn’t go on any longer,” said former sales manager Ms Roberts, who quit her job and dipped into her savings to open Salento in January of last year.
Just two months later, the world closed in and she was forced to shut down.
“I had been watching the retail industry for so long, wondering when was the best time to open, and then I took the plunge and it happened,” she says.
“I spent a six-figure sum to open the store. I put in it all the money I ever had in the bank, all the money my partner had – and my house is protected against that.
“Because I had only just opened, I hardly received any government support and I didn’t even have a proper website, so I barely could sell anything while I was doing it. was closed. “
Now Ms Roberts is cleaning up her store in the spring ahead of its second reopening in a year tomorrow morning, lining up brightly colored jars on the shelves, removing Christmas decorations she put up before Scotland’s second lockdown in December and installing hand sanitizer and a mandatory sign that only two customers can enter the store at a time.
This is the first time that stores deemed non-essential have been allowed to open since Boxing Day.
The Scottish Hospitality Guide project was “ intended to be illustrative, ” mini says …
Ms. Roberts says, “I’m excited, but I’m extremely worried.
“I hope there will be a rush of people who have a lot of money to spend that they couldn’t spend until everything is closed.
“Another foreclosure would be extremely serious for me. I just believe my fingers. I can’t wait to sell my pretty things back to customers.”
At Thistles Shopping Center in Stirling, retailers are gearing up for tomorrow’s opening.
Workshop workers can be seen putting the finishing touches on the hand sanitizing stations at the entrance to each unit and the owners of the center testing the tannoy systems, which constantly remind people of social distancing.
It’s a welcome return to normality for retailers.
However, mandatory face covers and one-way systems at peak times, curbing the usual aimless wandering that was once a hallmark of a leisurely shopping trip, constantly remind shoppers that all is not normal.
Few rules have changed since the shops were last allowed to open, except for a Scottish government requirement for a sign to be displayed indicating a store’s security capability.
“We ask people to use their common sense,” says center director Gary Turnbull.
“We didn’t expect people to walk around in groups of eight. It would cause chaos both in the shops and in the centers. “
Thistles have remained open throughout the pandemic, to allow access to ten retailers deemed essential, such as food stores, opticians and pharmacists.
“It’s nice to feel the center re-energize with all the stores coming back on board,” says Turnbull, who has extended opening hours later in the evening to allow people who don’t yet feel like they’re on board. comfortable in crowds to shop in quieter places. time.
“Everyone is delighted to come back to their jobs.”
Since its last opening before Christmas, however, the center – like others across Scotland – has lost some key retail units.
They include the Debenhams department store, one of its main units, and a number of Arcadia stable brands including Topshop, Burtons and Dorothy Perkins, all of which have come under administration.
Topshop has now gone live only, having been picked up by internet shopping giant Asos in February.
Mr. Turnbull says: “It’s hard to say how it’s going to turn out, but I think the public wants this interaction and the chance to take their time.
“For so long, shopping has been about breaking in, eating and coming home, that people look forward to shopping normally and browsing.”
He adds, “I think people are going to have to put their money where they want to go, though, if they want other brands to stay on the streets.”
Peter Beagley, manager of the Braehead shopping center in Glasgow, anticipates strong customer demand.
The center will open two hours earlier than normal tomorrow morning. He believes fashion stores will be the most popular on reopening day.
“As lockout restrictions get simpler, people are able to socialize more and visit cafes, bars and restaurants, so they will be looking to update their wardrobes to look the best of their newfound freedom. He said.
“Everyone desperately needs to get back to some kind of normalcy and being able to shop is a sign of that.”
However, a report released by KPMG earlier this week warned that there was a ‘long and potentially very difficult road’ for Scottish retailing, after figures showed a 14% drop in sales from March 2019 – before the start of the pandemic.
Attitudes vary from retailer to retailer about whether customers can try on clothes.
Some are opening locker rooms with complicated 72-hour quarantine procedures for clothes that are tried on and then not purchased – while others will close their dressing rooms completely.
Also in Glasgow, in the Silverburn Shopping Center, the centre’s owners are running a campaign to encourage shoppers to use contactless payment methods where possible – and to avoid shopping in large groups.
An app has been launched to allow shoppers to check the center’s occupancy when they plan to visit, with the aim of spreading the number of customers to avoid crowds.
The center is also home to one of three new ‘beauty halls’ to be launched tomorrow by the national chain of chemists Boots in Scotland, with two more based in Fort Kinnaird and Gyle Shopping Center in Edinburgh.
Previously focused on traditional makeup counters to serve its customers, the retailer has had to adapt not only to Covid-safe rules, but to a new attitude to shopping adopted by those now accustomed to the almost endless choice online.
The company has removed the traditional beauty counters from new beauty salons and replaced them with “trend zones”, “discovery zones” and “live demonstration zones”.
Customers can also get neutral advice from Boots beauty specialists, instead of dealing with assistants employed by specific cosmetic companies.
Moving away from the pre-Covid communal testers, in the new beauty counters, customers can test perfumes and makeup without contact, with disposable applicators distributed by a beauty advisor.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, is optimistic, but cautious about the future of the sector.
Clothing retailer Primark announced record sales in the week after being allowed to reopen in England and Wales earlier this month.
“It’s been 122 days since stores in Scotland were last allowed to open and for those who were at level four at the end of last year it’s longer than that,” he says.
“There is a feeling that there is a kind of pent-up demand, but there is also a question of how sustainable it will be.
“It will be a learning process over the next few weeks. The other problem is that people have gotten used to shopping online, so how well is this going to continue?
“Our hunch is that the online connection will continue, but not to the same extent as during the lockdown.”