Scottish and Welsh indies ‘desperate’ to reopen

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Retailers in England reopened their doors on Monday 15 June for the first time after the three-month lockdown. Meanwhile, retail stores in the Republic of Ireland began to reopen from 8 June, and most shops reopened across Northern Ireland on 12 June.

Independent retailers in Wales and Scotland have told Drapers it is “ridiculous” that they are not allowed to reopen too.

Wales is taking a traffic light approach to lifting lockdown, and specific details are still being developed. The issue of a 22 June reopening date of non-essential shops will be considered by the Welsh Government in the coming days, but depends on the continued reduction of coronavirus infections.

“We want to get back to business”, Eurig Lewis, owner of menswear independent Jackie James in Carmarthen, Wales, told Drapers. “It is so frustrating when county towns are already open and we still haven’t been allowed to open the doors. From a cash flow point of view, it’s horrendous.”

Kylie Hearne, owner of women’s occasionwear independent Kylie Rose Boutique in Cardiff, Wales, agreed: “This has given competitors an unfair advantage because they’re able to open before us. I work with Welsh and English (Bristol) customers and I feel like people will buy from them now before they go to me.”

Meanwhile, independents in Scotland are hoping they will find out this week when they can reopen again. The Scottish government said that “from Thursday we will also be able to move forward with the remobilisation of the NHS and also indicate a date from which our retail sector can begin to reopen.”

Lauren Brown, owner of men’s and women’s designer clothing independent Sisters and Misters in Falkirk, Scotland, said: “From my point of view, we are all part of the UK, we all went into the lockdown at the same time, and so we should all come out of lockdown at the same time. I think it is ridiculous. There are stores down the road in Carlisle trading, yet I’m not allowed.”

The owner of another womenswear independent in Falkirk agreed: “I’m pretty miffed we didn’t get to reopen when England was given the green light. We still don’t actually have a date, but we’re praying it will be announced on Thursday. We really should have reopened together. I don’t really understand why we couldn’t. There is less risk of infection being spread in small clothing shops than in the supermarkets.”

She added: “We are really looking forward to reopening now. It’s a passion, and you miss the customers. I’m in the shop at the moment giving it another clean and there’s people knocking on the window wanting to know when we’re reopening.”

Tracy Kinnaird, company director of womenswear independent Pink Poodle in Glasgow, also said customers are raring to get shopping again: “We are waiting with bated breath to find out when we can reopen Pink Poodle. Lots of our customers have messaged to ask when they can shop instore again, so we are feeling positive and looking forward to welcoming them back. The general consensus seems to be that people are keen to get back to some kind of normality, and that we need to breathe life back into the economy.”

Total sales in Scotland decreased by 27.6% in May 2020, compared with May 2019, when they had decreased by 3.8%. This is the second lowest recorded by the SRC-KPMG retail sales monitor since its inception in January 1999.

Ewan MacDonald Russell, head of policy and external affairs, at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The current crisis is forcing retailers who are currently barred from opening to accelerate the move to online and multichannel sales. When combined with weak consumer demand and confidence there is a real risk of entering a vicious economic cycle where reduced retail, hospitality, leisure, and other sales leads to more pressure on businesses through the supply chain which leads to fewer workers. Increased unemployment will exacerbate this further.

“It’s therefore essential we have a clear and unambiguous indicative timetable for high streets re-opening, a clear plan so shoppers can travel to and shop safely in town and city centres, and a short term economic stimulus package to encourage consumers to start shopping again.”

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