Lisa Currie caught up with a selection of independent retailers to hear about how they plan to re-open their retail premises safely as restrictions are lifted.
Since 23rd March, non-essential shops have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the closure of these shops still in place, independent toy retailers reveal their experiences during the UK lockdown and the challenges they have been facing.
Dave Tree from All the Cool Stuff in Fordingbridge told Toy World: “The last few months have been a challenge, as it has been for everyone. After Christmas, January and February are always very slow – as an independent shop in a small town we are used to the quiet periods and scaling back. So that side of things isn’t as much of shock to the system as it might be for others. However, just as we were hoping to emerge from that hibernation stage and start picking up again, the pandemic came along. It was a setback to miss out on Easter this year, which is our third biggest retail period. We’ve adapted to offer local delivery. This was well received to begin with, though people’s discretionary spending has got noticeably less and less the longer we have been on lockdown.”
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel with shops being able to open from 15th June and guidelines issued to retailers. Bright Star Toys, situated in Linlithgow, is in the midst of implementing a safe strategy for when they can open their doors again. Owner Ian Meliville explained, “The imposed guidelines are all generally in line with our thinking. Although small, our shop layout should allow us to manage the social distancing aspects of the guidelines without too much disruption. Initially we think a fair percentage of customers will still be wary of leaving their homes too often or might avoid browsing in shops, so we intend to set out slightly reduced opening hours that will allow us to continue to offer free home delivery to those who want it. With the new website, we can now also offer a click and collect option as an alternative to coming in the shop.”
Ian added: “One thing that has become clear over the last several weeks is that as a business we need to adapt, embrace change and be ready for anything the future throws at us.”
As shops make the necessary preparations, Pauline Connelly of Connelly’s Toyshop, Barnard Castle, has continued to keep spirits up. “I have been running competitions with prizes to be won and have been drawing a hopscotch outside the shop every morning, which has been a hit with both adults and children passing by. It’s fantastic how many people get joy from this, as well as from our toy deliveries. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child smile – it raises spirits and its why I do things like this. Toys and games are essential, especially during a time like this.”
Read the full Talking Shop feature in the June issue of Toy World here.