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Lockdown eased, shops reopening

Diane Hall


Clothing shop with assistant holding up an open sign.

It’s been confirmed that the lockdown will ease, to some extent, on December 2nd. Though we will return to the tier system in a bid to combat the spread of Covid-19, most retailers will be able to open their doors for the Christmas rush.

Knowing many SME owners, I’m sure this will be a relief. This year has been harsh enough, without missing out on the trade that Christmas brings. For some, this can represent 25% of their annual takings.

With only a small window of opportunity to gather gifts for our loved ones, there’s the chance that retail outlets will become packed like a tin of sardines for the three weeks of shopping time before the big day comes. That’s not good for our health when we’ve been socially distancing from people all year.

Marks and Spencer Logo

Marks and Spencer Logo
Primark logo, blue text on black background

Some shops, such as Marks and Spencer and Primark, have extended their opening hours to compensate. Whilst this seems a very kind thing to do for us poor shoppers, I’m not naïve enough to believe that this is the only reason. Having missed out on forecasted profit throughout the rest of the year as already mentioned, longer opening hours gives these shops a better chance of reaping back lost revenue.

Those amongst us who are better organised may have already done their Christmas shopping online, especially those who feared the national lockdown would continue past the beginning of December. Given how much our consumer habits have changed, this could be how most people gather their Christmas gifts together from now on, which isn’t good news for our High Streets.

A consumer expert advised shoppers to find quieter times to shop once the restrictions change. However, plenty of people worked through the second lockdown and will continue to do so up to Christmas week—these people will have no choice but to go during traditionally busy times, such as at the weekend, if they wish to visit a retailer in person. 

Queues outside was one method retailers employed to manage the number of customers within their premises at any one time during the summer. When it’s warm and relatively nice weather, it’s not much of a burden to wait your turn outside, but it will be a different story during December. Will retailers be willing to spend money on awnings/rain-guards/outdoor heaters to keep their clientele happy if they’re queuing outside to come in? Given how much these same retailers will have already spent in 2020 on PPE, signage and Covid-friendly shop fittings to meet regulations, during a year of low (or no) profits, no one would blame them if they didn’t.

Until a vaccine programme has been actioned/rolled out, it’s a risk to even step outside your front door at the moment, let alone join swathes of people in a packed-to-the-rafters retail outlet. It’s a risk some people will still take, however, to be able to get their Christmas shopping.

The sensible thing is to order online, but as we all know, support for bricks-and-mortar independent businesses is desperately needed if they’re to survive.

A conundrum indeed.

What’s your take on shopping for Christmas 2020? Tweet us @intheknowemag

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