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Lockdown 3: comments from Harts and Potters

With lockdown 3 announced for non-essential retailers in England last night (joining Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland, currently with lockdown restrictions), retail associations BRC and Bira immediately called for further support from government. New grants for retailers have since been announced this morning. Meanwhile, many housewares retailers are expecting a rise in online demand as consumers stay at home.

At Potters of Hockley, director Tom Carter feels better prepared for a rise on online demand than at the start of the first lockdown. Tom told today: “We are and have been so busy online and even this morning you can see the change with more orders coming through. Click and collect levels are now at the highest they have ever been for us. We know the sales will spike again with people stuck indoors and orders are flying in with suppliers to prepare for this.”

Above: Potters Cookshop in Hockley continues to offer click and collect, with the hardware and DIY side of the business still open.
Above: Potters Cookshop in Hockley continues to offer click and collect, with the hardware and DIY side of the business still open.

Tom continues: “Our biggest challenge now is getting the stock in though as we are at our lowest levels for some time. We are hoping that suppliers can keep up with demand but we understand it is very difficult for a number of reasons.

“Thankfully with having the hardware side of the business we are still open with the staff being amazing as ever. We also deliver to anyone that needs it especially now some are shielding again.At least this time we know we are prepared as we were all caught off guard last time with website sales.” Tom concludes. “It is a good problems to have trying to keep up with sales than the other way round so we know, even though times will get dark, we are in ways very lucky.”

At Harts of Stur, purchasing director David Conduit is also anticipating another rise in online sales. He explains:The next few months will be interesting. The larger part of our store is shut, but the garden and DIY departments remain open, and I would expect them to be reasonably busy.

“Online, we are expecting another surge. Time will tell if it is as pronounced as last March/April/May, or the Christmas period, of course. I doubt it, as by and large people have spent their disposable income already, and with no stated end date for the lockdown, they may act more cautiously. That said, with the high streets up and down the country closed, we are expecting to be busier than normal for the time of year, and with a similar focus on home cooking and baking, these departments are busier.”

David adds: “As preparation, we are boosting stock levels (where available) on all relevant product lines. We also spread our risk a little late last year by taking on new kitchenware suppliers to mitigate some of the stock shortages.”

Above: Home baking is booming – image from a recent Christmas Gift blog from Harts of Stur.
Above: Home baking is booming – image from a recent Christmas Gift blog from Harts of Stur.

While many bricks and mortar cookshops continue to trade via click and collect, associations were swift to lobby for further support for the retail sector following last night’s announcement of lockdown 3. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium said: “The biggest difference the government can make is to extend business rates relief from April for those hardest hit by repeated lockdowns.”

Andrew Goodacre, ceo of Bira (British Independent Retailers Association, representing many cookshops and housewares stockists) reflected on the massive losses from closures in November and December in the run-up to Christmas. He stated:We should focus on non-essential retailers who have borne the brunt of the crisis; closed for 12 weeks in the summer, four weeks in November and part of December means that many of them have missed out on their most important trading periods and probably the only time that they make a profit.

“The current business support grants are simply not enough as in many cases they will not even pay the rent. The first quarter of the year is always the toughest for retailing, even without Covid, and the extra sales in November in December provide the valuable cash flow to see through winter.”

This morning, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced grants for retailers from £4,400 to £9,000 per property to help businesses through to the spring. [Click HERE)

* Bira has now voiced concerns the Treasury’s £4.6 billion will not sustain retailers through the new national lockdown in England. The  association is worried that, with no confirmed date for reopening, the funding will not be enough to keep retailers afloat.

Andrew comments: “The extra support cannot come soon enough. And while we certainly welcome the extra money being provided to closed businesses, on top of the existing grants, the problem is that we have no end date to this lockdown.” He adds “The Government needs to keep an open mind and be prepared to offer more support if this lockdown looks like being longer than they envisage at the moment.
“We would also like to see the interest-free period for loans extended and the issue of longer-term business rates relief addressed so that businesses can plan ahead.”


Top: While many cookshops are now shut across the UK, click and collect offers a way to provide consumers with some essentials for home cooking.

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