Shop Out to Help Out – Could New Scheme Help the High Street Recover?
A petition has been launched to introduce a Shop Out to Help Out scheme to help struggling independent high street retailers. The goal is to each 100,000 signatures from both retailers and consumers. The idea calls for customers to be rewarded with a 50% rebate when shopping in small or independent retailers employing fewer than 10 staff.
However, this may still not be enough to revive the fortunes of beleaguered retailers following “Freedom Day” on July 19th.
Dr Eleonora Pantano, retail marketing expert at the University of Bristol, agreed: “The demise of physical stores and the high street started long before the pandemic, which has accelerated the decline. To really boost retail sectors, retailers need more substantial financial support to help them adapt from being just a place to shop to offering a memorable experience, which gives them a competitive advantage against online options and the chance of winning customer loyalty. When the Shop Out to Help Out money runs out, shoppers won’t return unless there is something special to keep them coming back.”
Last year’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme was hailed a success by the hospitality sector but Helen Ashton, chief executive at Shape Beyond, said Eat Out to Help Out was a success as “discounts on food in restaurants are relatively rare and the timing post the first lockdown was great when people were desperate to get out”.
“Discounting of consumer goods is likely to be less impactful as it is a regular occurrence in the retailing seasonal calendar,” she added.
It is clear that, given the challenging year experienced by many independent retailers, any help from the government to assist their recovery would be very welcome indeed.
The Wholesaler UK Asks: What does Freedom Day Mean for Retailers?
July 19th, otherwise know as Freedom Day in the UK, will see the end of the legal requirement to limit social contact and wear face masks but retailers are not unanimous in their support of the lifting of restrictions. Confusion is also caused by the government’s statement that it still “expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas”
Some consumers are still uneasy about shopping with no restrictions whilst others are eager to shop mask free. Retailers are faced with the dilemma of having to try and cater for both types of customer. BRC Chief Executive, Helen Dickinson, has stated that at the very least 'retailers are likely to continue with many of the existing safety measures such as hand sanitiser and perspex screens' and that 'It is vital that the government is as clear as possible as to how they expect people to act after July 19th'.
Larger stores may feel able to relax the rules and allow individual shoppers to decide for themselves where to shop but their perception of the risk of infection will still hugely influence their decision. With many consumers now used to shopping online, retailers need to ensure that their stores offer a safe environment to encourage anxious customers back to a busy physical location. They will have to decide on their own policies but many would prefer more specific guidance from the government. What works for one retailer may not work for another.
Strongest Seasonal Sales in Four Years Reported by UK Retailers
Stock levels on the British high street are at their lowest in 38 years as UK retailers report their best seasonal sales in June since November 2016.
According to the CBI, the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions plus an increase in consumer confidence as a result of the vaccine programme have both contributed to the retail industry seeing its strongest sales in over four years.
However, this sudden surge of activity has also resulted in stock levels dipping to a record low, with all of the 117 retail, wholesale and motor trade companies surveyed in the CBI's monthly survey reporting their relative levels of stock as 'too low'.
Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI, said: After a generally gloomy 2021 so far, the sun finally shone for retailers in June, with seasonal sales volumes the strongest since November 2016.
He added: 'This was the latest sign that the success of the vaccination programme is feeding through to stronger consumer confidence which, along with the reopening of hospitality, is encouraging shoppers back on to the streets.'