UK retailers and consumers alike are emerging from another period of locked-in isolation, understandably paranoid as to when the cycle may start all over again. As thought the vast majority of us know the benefits of closures and separations, as time without clear and continuous instruction continues, many are growing frustrated enough to act out. Instances such as anti-mask protests have highlighted the more extreme divide in current social behaviour, but one of the most pressing issues remains that of smaller, local business being able to survive. What are the retailers of 2020 thinking – and will they adhere to future lockdown regulations?
With Christmas and the New Year, swiftly on their way, many of our immediate thoughts are turning to the possibility of a ‘Lockdown 3.0’ in the early stages of 2021. Regardless of someone’s views on whether masks, sanitisation, and distancing are in any way effective, it has been extremely interesting to see the distinct camps of thought forming under the umbrella of the pandemic. For some, 2020 has been an unexpectedly prosperous period. As often as we are seeing store closures, many new retail businesses have been able to launch on our high streets. This is arguably where we are seeing the highest level of government compliance, as many new stores have either immediately closed their doors or delayed their openings altogether – with frustration, but complete understanding.
On the other hand, other businesses seem to be looking for ways around having to close their doors again. As the second lockdown has carried on, many have voiced their surprise and grievances over the types of stores that have been allowed to stay open. Businesses that were not deemed ‘essential’ during the first wave of lockdowns (home furnishings, tech) are now still keeping their doors open, begging the economical question of why some can, and some can’t – especially given the national financial implications. This sense of favouritism has prompted some to say that they may not adhere to stricter guidelines in the future or might actively look to bring in products (such as masks) that will allow leeway to create a physical pandemic profit.
All in all, many will stick to what needs to be done. Options such as buying gift cards in advance, leaving reviews and ordering to collect remain what is advised to support small and local business, instead of seeing closure refusal as a ‘last resort’. Sites such as eBay are offering grants and package schemes to allow small business to keep operations as close to normality as possible, while others are still remaining positive and adapting to post-COVID routines – such as creating home studios and viewing starting a new business venture as a ‘side hustle’. This growing need to be thrown into a challenge is something that seems to be keeping the momentum of business afloat, as consumers realise the need to support small and local is now greater than ever before.