small stores try to make up for lost time

William Arsn

As non-essential stores start to open their doors once more, The Telegraph speaks to four small retailers about how Monday went for them – and what they expect in the weeks ahead. 

Beverley Edmondson, Beverley Edmondson Millinery, Farnham

“We make money three months of the year – and those three months have now gone”.

For many it would be hard to be upbeat in the circumstances, but Beverley Edmondson, who owns an eponymous millinery in Farnham was no different. 

“We’re very heavily based on the weddings industry and events like Ascot. We’ve lost our season and demand for our core product will be very lacking until the situation around events changes.”

During the lockdown, Beverley made some sales online, but nowhere near enough to make up for what was usually her peak season. 

“We’ve re-opened, but largely by appointment. I was pleasantly surprised with footfall, but one of the reasons we do appointment only is given how many of my team have been furloughed. When it gets to October it’ll be an even less busy time of year, but I really want their jobs still to exist.”

Andrew Kenyon, JAK Hanson, Wrighton

While many businesses have used the pandemic as an opportunity to move more of their trade online, the option wasn’t available to Andrew Kenyon of the JAK Hanson shopping outlet in Wrightington, Wigan.

“We don’t do online – we act as a concession basis so we sell the stock for brands, and as it moves so quickly it’s hard to work online as the change in price could be very quick.” 

JAK Hanson store front

While Kenyon described footfall as “somewhat subdued”, the average spend was up notably.

“Our demographics are 40 and upwards; therefore many think it could be busy so could well be holding off. We’re in an outlet [mall] and they want that experience, but while food hall and our shop is open, restaurants aren’t.

“We believe that the customers before lockdown will still be there where everything is under one roof. As owners we’re on the shop floor – they know us and we know them, it’s just about how quickly they will return.”

Amy Cook, Sorelle Style, Warrington

“We’re based in a small village – we have a lot of regular customers, and see a lot of familiar faces … while we have an online presence, we needed to get the shop open – our business works off connections and personal relationships,” says Amy Cook, owner of Sorelle Style in Warrington.

She says the business would not have survived without government support.

“It is still very precarious … the support that has been put in place has been helpful, but I think the government  response has been fantastic with furlough and the grants.”

The two metre distance rule means only two customers can be in the store at a time. “It would be helpful at one metre – but we can’t risk a second spike,” Cook adds.

Simon Cope, Skopes Menswear, Leeds

While the optimism of many business owners dependent on hospitality has been hit hard by the pandemic, Simon Cope of Skopes Menswear is not one of them. 

The formalwear retailer is cautiously optimistic as it re-opens for business.  

Simon Cope, Owner and Managing Director of Skopes

“While we took a lot of wedding orders, most of those orders are carrying on. When the leisure sector picks up, hopefully our sales will do so too … demand has returned more immediately to lower-end brands like Sports Direct and Primark.

“We do think there will be a lot of opportunities, and we’re excited by a lot of the opportunities out of there. 2008-09 was challenging, but finance is still there and helping – HSBC have been incredibly helpful for us, and we got a CBIL loan within a week or so. There are opportunities for those who are looking for them.”

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