Some NFRN members are finally able to reopen their stores for the first time since lockdown was imposed. Find out how members have adapted their stores and how business has been since they reopened their doors.
Whether your store remained open or had to unfortunately close, the coronavirus outbreak has not been easy for anyone within the independent retailing industry. Whilst some shops were able to continue serving their customers throughout Covid-19, many had to close due to self-isolation and unforeseen circumstances. Thankfully, many of these stores are finally back in business after high streets begin to reopen and coronavirus cases continue to decline.
Although the hardships of independent store owners are far from over, with the commitment and resilience from those within the sector, encouragement for consumers to shop more locally and the financial aid from the government and NFRN, the sector can resume to what it once was – or even better than that.
Back in business
Eugene Diamond, of Diamonds Newsagents in Ballymena, decided to close his store March 20th because of health concerns.
He said: “My wife, mainly, was concerned about my health and I ultimately closed the store to self-isolate.
“I’ve been in the business for over 40 years and have never closed the store. This is the first ever time that we had to.
“We reopened on May 18th and the store was closed for around eight weeks.
“The store reopening went really well and business has been very good.”
Eugene commends Menzies for being a great help.
“We had absolutely no problem reinstating our news supplies for our first day. Every single company and supplier that we use have been fantastic,” he explained.
“We’ve had a lot of new newspaper customers because a lot of people don’t want to go to the big supermarkets for them anymore.”
While business has been booming for Eugene, many retailers are still struggling with the hardships of Covid-19.
Jane Ham, of Caspers Cafe in Warminster Railway Station, originally had to close her store two weeks before lockdown.
“We’re in a railway station and most of the trains weren’t running. The government told everyone not to use public transport, so we lost most of our customers,” she said.
“We reopened our store on Monday 7th June and it’s just me working in the shop at the moment.
“It hasn’t been easy reopening because our footfall still isn’t great.
“Although 70% of trains are back on now, everyone is still being advised to not use public transport.
“Our sales are down to one-fifth of what they usually are.”
The new normal
As the world has significantly changed since the beginning of Covid-19, all shops that are reopening their doors have had to adapt their businesses to create a safer environment for their customers and employees.
Jane said: “We refurbished the store a lot whilst we were closed, so it’s all very clean.
“We have painted the walls, got a new cooker, microwave and work tops.
“We also have social distancing posters and floor stickers.
“I usually put books outside of the store for charity but I haven’t been doing that because you don’t know who has been touching them.
“The store hasn’t had enough footfall to see what else needs to change.”
During his store’s closure, Eugene also spent his time productively by giving the shop a makeover.
“We gave it an overall makeover and a general paint.
“We’ve also installed a perplex screen at the checkout.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of the screen – even after the coronavirus crisis – it’s here to stay!”
A helping hand
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the NFRN has been here to help and guide any members that are struggling. Be it financial aid or specialised advice, the NFRN has done whatever it can to support independent store owners.
The Federation created the Hardship Fund to help members who are facing severe hardship as a result of the Covid-19. Since its launch in April, the Hardship Fund has helped nearly 70 independent retailers and paid out £100,000.
Jane said: “I have applied for the NFRN’s Hardship Fund because of all of the business that I have lost during the coronavirus crisis.
“I’m just waiting to hear back from them and hopefully they can help.”
Promoting your reopening
Promoting your reopening can be a successful way to boost your business.
Eugene has found that social media and the press can be powerful tools to promote your store’s reopening.
He said: “I’ve always kept our Twitter and Facebook up-to-date and continued that whilst we were closed.
“I’d take videos and post them on our Facebook page – it kept our customers still focused on the business, even though we were closed.
“We had the local and regional press do stories on the reopening too, which was a great help.”