Shop-owners: ‘We are still trading’

NON-ESSENTIAL shops have said they remain open for business – even if they cannot open to their doors to customers – while retailers are predicting that people will return to the high street when government restrictions are relaxed.

The Central Market remains open                                                             Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29949103)
The Central Market remains open Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29949103)

And Islanders are encouraged to support local retailers where possible to ensure that shops are still there when Covid-19 guidelines are eased.

Following the closure of the hospitality sector, many restaurants launched takeaway services to bring in some business, a move which has been widely supported by Islanders.

Now many of the shops are following suit by offering click-and-collect or delivery services for orders placed either online or over the telephone.

Retailers are also embracing social media to advise customers about the options available.

Meanwhile, the hospitality sector has called for greater government engagement with their industry about when restrictions may begin to ease.

Sarah Sacriste, head of marketing at Voisins Department Store, said the shop was now well supported by remote customers.

She said: ‘We were super-busy in the couple of weeks up to Christmas. There was a bit of a lull last week but, since Monday, it has really picked up again.’

The days between Christmas and new year are typically when sales begin but Ms Sacriste explained that bargain hunters were less likely to place online or phone orders.

‘People like to browse in the sales and see what’s left. They’re for shopping in person.

‘But people’s regular purchases like skin cream and beauty products are still being delivered.’

She said that she did not fear that lockdown would be ‘the death of the high street’, predicting that customers would return when restrictions were lifted. ‘It’s part of the experience, looking around and browsing. Businesses will survive and succeed if they offer diversity.’

During last year’s lockdown, Bambola Toymaster operated a delivery service. Owner John Testori says that if the Island enters another full lockdown, the store may operate one again but that for now they are offering ‘click and collect’ from their branch in The Parade.

He said: ‘Many toys are very tactile – you don’t know you need them in your life until you have them in your hands so we are not doing as much business. But some business is better than none.’

He shared Ms Sacriste’s confidence that customers would return after lockdown, saying: ‘People like the romance of going into a toy shop. They miss the high street. They realise life wouldn’t be as good if you just got a brown box with a smiley face.’

De Gruchy department store has a ‘Buy De Gruchy’ scheme whereby products are shown on a website and can be ordered over the phone and delivered to the customer’s door. Assistant store manager Marcus Meadows said the store had begun the service during the March lockdown and had maintained it for customers who did not feel comfortable visiting shops.

As with Voisins, Mr Meadows said their experience was that customers were requesting deliveries of products they were familiar with, such as cosmetics.

He said: ‘In addition, there are essentials like cooking products, small electrical items and cookware. But fashion is really challenging.’

He added: ‘I think we will come back stronger. Most retailers will have learnt a lot in 2020.’

Praising retailers for the way they had adapted their services, Vicky Trehorel, St Helier town centre manager, urged Islanders to shop locally where possible to ensure that St Helier had a vibrant high street when traditional shopping was able to return.

She said: ‘A lot of businesses are being proactive with new ways of shopping and we are very supportive. It means that people can go on shopping locally. Not all businesses have the capacity to offer these services but those that do are doing themselves a huge favour. People will remember the good service they received and come back.’

Murray Norton, chief executive of Jersey Chamber of Commerce, added that ‘every single transaction in local support matters to many families’.

He said: ‘Retailers in Jersey remain creative in trying to keep consumers supplied and they must take huge credit for doing all they can in such difficult times for trading.

‘Responsibilities of paying the bills and keeping people in employment are immense.’

But Mr Norton also warned: ‘We must ensure that government has contingency planning in place to provide the financial support this sector needs so that local businesses remain a viable option.’

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