‘Make or break’ for high street as Scottish shops reopen

The future of Scotland’s high streets will be decided in the ­coming weeks as shops finally reopen their doors today after three months of the coronavirus lockdown.
Michelle MacArthur from Moss Flowers in Glasgow displays a "WE'RE OPEN" sign designed by artist Yukai DuMichelle MacArthur from Moss Flowers in Glasgow displays a "WE'RE OPEN" sign designed by artist Yukai Du
Michelle MacArthur from Moss Flowers in Glasgow displays a "WE'RE OPEN" sign designed by artist Yukai Du

People are being urged to “shop local” as outlets with outdoor entrances and exits return today, with those in shopping centres set to follow suit in a fortnight.

A five-step guide has been issued by retail chiefs, urging shoppers to obey social distancing rules and wear face coverings, as one of the most significant milestones in Scotland’s journey out of lockdown beckons.

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Today also marks the easing of restrictions on house moves, outdoor markets, the construction sector, factories, warehouses and labs and research facilities. Outdoor playgrounds are open, but distancing must be practised.

The Scottish Government said it will be a major step towards “recovery of the economy” after growth shrunk by an estimated 19 per cent in April as a result of lockdown.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), said the next few weeks will be crucial as many shops battle to survive the ­crisis.

He said: “Shops and retail jobs depend on the ongoing support of the public.

“The coming weeks and months will certainly determine the future of our high streets for years to come.

“Many retailers will still be in a fight to come out of this crisis. Whilst a return to trading is crucial, and a firm date for re-opening shops in malls is a must, it will not be a panacea for the industry.

“That’s why we hope to see swift action from government, in the form of short-term economic stimulus, to encourage consumer confidence and consequently protect Scottish stores and retail jobs.”

Shutdown has cost non-essential shops in Scotland £20 million a day in lost ­revenues. Not all stores will re-open immediately, and non-essential outlets in indoor shopping centres and malls remain barred from opening for another fortnight.

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Mr Lonsdale added: “It has never been more important to play our part in keeping our towns and retail destinations vibrant. Every visit we make helps support jobs in retail and throughout the supply chain.”

The SRC, trade union Usdaw and the Scottish Government, are encouraging people to follow five steps for “considerate shopping”. They are: queue considerately; maintain social distancing; follow instructions inside and outside shops; follow hygiene measures and be respectful to staff.

The Scottish Government and retail bosses are keen to avoid scenes witnessed in London’s Oxford Street with jostling in queues outside stores as shopping resumed south of the Border a fortnight ago.

The retail sector is one of Scotland’s largest employers, as well as being at the heart of many communities.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The progress made in tackling Covid-19 because of compliance of the public with lockdown rules means we are now in a position to ease some restrictions.

“Shops with street access in high streets across the country will be re-opening from today in a significant step towards the recovery of our economy, which has been very 
severely hit by coronavirus. High street retailers have shown huge resilience since the start of lockdown and the work they have done to safely prepare for re-opening, with close engagement between industry and trade unions, has been very welcome.

“As the high street re-opens we are making it clear shoppers are welcome back to their local high street as long as they shop safely and observe key safety messages such as the wearing of face coverings.”

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw urged ­consumers to support retailers today.

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He said: “The reopening of the High Streets is a really positive step for all of us – another big step towards normal life.

“As we move from the public health emergency of Covid, Scotland is undoubtedly facing a significant economic challenge.

“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to stand up for jobs and livelihoods to ensure our economy suffers as little as possible over the course of this crisis.

“Our message is that the Scottish Government must start to revitalise our economy, but so can we – we can get out there and spend money.

“Scottish Conservatives will be out there today, publicly highlighting the great shops we have, and the great people who work in them.”

Industry chiefs are expecting a rush of activity over the next few days as shops return, but this is expected to tail off in the weeks ahead.

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We all have a part to play in breathing life back into our high streets and town centres. Local independent retailers have had a very long, tough few months and they need the public’s support.

“We know that money spent locally stays in the local community, and local communities can’t recover unless local economies do so too.”

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Stewart Forrest, divisional officer at Usdaw, urged shoppers to respect staff in stores as activity returns today.

He said: “Unfortunately the early part of the coronavirus crisis saw a rise in instances of abuse towards shop workers, and we are absolutely clear that ‘abuse is not part of the job’. Along with the SRC and Scottish Government we have collaborated to produce guidance for shops of all sizes and locations to provide staff and customers with a safe shopping experience.

“Customers need to play their part and be patient, observe social distancing and show respect to shop workers, whilst ensuring high streets and town centres remain vibrant and a great shopping experience for everyone”.

The reopening is underpinned by a new Scottish ­Government campaign to ensure shopping is safe.

The national campaign, which includes posters for retailers, encourages the ­public to enjoy shopping again as they safely support businesses in their local area.

It asks shoppers to pay attention to signs, guidance and instructions from shop staff, to shop outside of peak hours and to follow current health guidance. This includes the wearing of face coverings, and observing good hand hygiene.



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