I took a walk into my hometown on Monday (15th June), just to gauge how the re-opening of non-essential shops has been received. Whilst it was clearly busier than it has been in recent weeks, most retail outlets remain closed. Why? Probably because high street stores are weighing up how to bring back their employees as well as their customers and when, given the complex rules around furlough subsidies.
Many of those who had ventured out to the shops seemed more curious than desperate to buy, which may prove very disappointing to a government that has been urging consumers to get out and spend. For retailers, however, this will come as no surprise. They know their market well and they understand that there are many factors at play as we move towards the gradual reopening of society. The need to be flexible is therefore the crucial driver when it comes to reopening and bringing back staff.
Those shops that have not yet opened will, I believe, be waiting for 1st July so that staff brought back to help with opening and selling can effectively still be subsidised to a degree by the government’s CJRS for those hours that they are not working (Flexible Furlough Scheme – please forgive the acronym). This means retailers can adapt flexibly to the retail mood without losing the government’s (albeit reduced) financial support.
There is much for returning retailers to think about under new government guidance:
Above all, however, I do believe it will be the access to government financial support and the need to adapt to the volatility of the everyday shopper that will influence the decision to open, hours of opening and how and when employees are brought back to work.