What can retailers learn from the lockdown in Leicester?

07 July 2020, 10:03 AM
  • A localised lockdown in your area doesn’t have to be a setback for your business
What can retailers learn from the lockdown in Leicester?

Lockdown has looked different for many food and drink businesses, with some operating on a smaller scale, and others closing altogether. At a time when businesses were preparing to reopen, welcome an increased footfall and even begin operating a café again, businesses in Leicester were dealt another blow with a second, localised lockdown.

So how has it affected retailers and shops?

Being prepared
Many businesses will no doubt have been prepared for the eventuality of another lockdown, and will certainly have been better set up the second time around, whether they were offering delivery, click-and-collect or takeaway.

Following the announcement, which only applied to certain areas of Leicester, all non-essential shops closed, and many pubs and restaurants in the lockdown zone had to delay their plans to reopen for at least two weeks. Essential traders at Leicester and Beaumont Market were still open, however, offering groceries and essential food products to residents.

As part of the localised lockdown, pubs and restaurants outside of the lockdown zone that did reopen, will be taking customers’ contact details as part of the NHS Track and Trace service, something other retailers and businesses may also be asked to do in the event of further localised lockdowns across the country.

After three pubs in the UK were forced to close after it was revealed customers tested positive for coronavirus, the concept of more localised lockdowns across the country is perhaps inevitable. But it shouldn’t dishearten businesses. Rather, it’s important to consider your strategy should this happen in your area.

Pete Gardner, managing director at boutique chocolate shop Cocoa Amore, located in the Leicester lockdown zone, was planning on reopening both of his stores on 3rd July, but decided to keep his Leicester shop closed until further notice. But he doesn’t see this as a setback.

“My reasoning behind holding off was that I wanted to wait until the Government would allow staff to return part time for furlough so I can slowly start bringing in increased hours and staff between July and October, and still get support towards wages,” Pete told us.

“Chocolate is not in season between June and September as it’s just too warm usually, so sales are always low in that period without a global pandemic. So I’m trying to keep my running costs low so we can afford to stock up well for Christmas without making any staff redundant.

“We have been really busy online and making a new wholesale range for other stockists so we weren’t in a rush to open the doors as we’ve been operating all of that on 10% of my team with the rest furloughed.

“I don’t see it as a setback – we will just adapt the business model to whatever is needed to maintain the brand and the jobs.”

So how can other businesses prepare for a localised lockdown in their area?

“The main thing is not to become complacent with the business,” Pete says. “Keep the brand alive, even if it’s just engaging with customers on social media. They can very quickly forget about you and find someone else to buy from. Once they are in a routine of buying elsewhere, it’s difficult to get them back. Since lockdown started in March we have kept our customers involved with the business, suggesting flavours and products and we’ve created them and brought them to market quickly through our own webstore as well as engaging a lot with bloggers and influencers by providing them with chocolate for their own recipes and channels.”

Whatever your strategy has been throughout lockdown, you’ll no doubt have learned an enormous amount about how to deal with a crisis. In the event of a localised lockdown in your area, continued innovation, communications and customer engagement will prove essential.

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