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Be prepared – that’s the advice from NFRN National President Stuart Reddish who is advising members to expect possible product shortages, increased customer demand and potential complications to their businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many stores across the UK and Ireland have reported shortages of items – such as toilet roll, hand wash and hand sanitiser – due to mass panic and stockpiling.

Independent retailers are advised to take suitable measures during the short-term, such as increasing orders of popular items from their wholesalers, to better prepare for customer demand.

Mr Reddish explained: “Our members should ensure that they are fully stocked and remain in contact with their suppliers.

“Whilst many industries are taking a hit amid the coronavirus, the retail industry has seen an increase in demand and sales. However, during these uncertain times, the short-term future of our industry remains unclear. Additional regulations and precautions enforced by the government are a possibility.

“Members must remain conscious of this and prepare by taking necessary precautions. This includes creating crisis plans and increasing orders of essential products during the short-term.

“If independent store owners take these precautions, they may see potential benefits and opportunities, such as increased sales and customer loyalty. Several members have stores that are better placed to continue to serve customers compared to bigger supermarkets, who could find staff off sick in their droves.”

Camelot is one supplier which has recently shared its precautionary measures and advice with NFRN members. A Camelot spokesperson said: “We are closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and are following government advice.

“We know what a difficult time this is for many of our retail partners and we are continuing to support them and their businesses by keeping our Retail Sales Team on the road and visiting stores, for as long as it’s safe to do so. We will also be monitoring trends in retailer payments – and any increases in incidences of payment failure will be individually handled.

“We’d like to reassure our National Lottery retail partners that we have implemented a number of precautionary measures in response to current guidance from the government and public health authorities.

“These include things like making regular hand-washing a priority for all colleagues; advising social distancing of two metres and not to shake hands; advising colleagues to stay at home if feeling unwell or if displaying any symptoms of a cold; and ceasing all face-to-face team meetings, on and off site, until further notice. We are also providing advice to retailers on how best to protect their staff and customers.

“Our priority is to protect their retailers, players and employees, and we will continue to monitor developments and follow the official advice. Should any of our retail partners have further questions, they can call our Retailer Hotline on 0800 8 40 50 60.”

Mutual Manager of The Retail Mutual, Kirsty Hampton, said: “Retail and hospitality businesses are paramount to the UK economy, and the coronavirus is likely to hit the smallest independents hardest. Despite the latest reports on consumer confidence in the UK improving in February, our feeling is that footfall is down and this will have an impact on retailers.

“If a Retail Mutual Member’s premises are closed by local authorities due to staff being taken ill with the coronavirus, or if their premises face closure due to suspected contact with the virus and require a deep clean, they may be covered. As a discretionary mutual, we can support independent businesses at this time and are able to consider claims beyond the standard scope of cover.

“The chancellor’s announcements following the recent budget from the government, including the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme and business rate cuts, will have a significant impact on the resilience of independent businesses during this uncertain period for the UK economy.”

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