Lancashire fashion boutique in mannequin protest to call for fairness amid lockdown

A Lancashire shop owner is urging the Government to create a level playing field for independent retailers forced to shut their doors in the coronavirus lockdown.

Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 12:30 pm

Naomi Walker from Bombshell Betty Boutique in, Garstang, is part of a national campaign to get the Government to either let them reopen their doors safely or restrict the range of items supermarkets and other stores which are allowed to be open after being deemed essential.

The group from Boutiques in Business have organised a protest where mannequins in shop windows are being turned to face away from the street, as they say the Government has turned its back on the independent shops.

The idea of the protest came from Naomi at the Market Place women's wear and gifts shop which she has had for five years.

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Garstang's Bombshell Betty Boutique has turned its mannequins around to face away from the window in a protest as retailers from the Boutiques in Business group fell the Government has turned its back on them in lockdown by allowing some big names to sell items they would normally sell

Naomi said that when the store reopened on June 15 after the initial lockdown, customers flocked back and were very supportive, but as virus cases rose nationally retailers could see a decline in footfall which hit hard in the Tier 3 lockdown.

Now in full lockdown, she said independent retailers who have struggled to pay bills all year, have been hit hard at their most crucial time of year - the run up to Christmas.

She said: "The Government has rallied round with the furlough scheme and support grants, but they don't touch the sides when you have rent, invoices, VAT and other overheads, so many people are struggling and I know of shops that have closed for good.

"We understand the need for this lockdown and support it, many of us have lost loved ones to coronavirus, but we need things to be fair.

Naomi Walker from Bombshell Betty Boutique

"It is not right that supermarkets and other nationals can sell such things as clothing, toys and cards, when independents are mandated to close.

"Garstang is a vibrant town where people want to move to and that is partly because we have a vibrant high street with lots of independent shops which add character.

"On my street there is an interiors shop, a toy shop, a gifts shop and a card shop all closed at the moment, while big name stores are allowed to sell those items. If independents are forced to close by this lockdown, then it will have a knock on effect in communities like ours across the country.

"If the Government can mandate us to close, can mandate people to stay at home, then surely it can mandate supermarkets and others to stop selling non-essential items.

It is time to support local businesses

"The average supermarket has around 24,500 customers. I only allow three in my store and clean everything they touch, anything they try on is put aside for 48 hours and sprayed with anti-viral cleaner. So customers are safer in the independents."

Amanda Leigh Slattery founder of BIB and who runs the Maya Maya fashion store in Kendal, said: "Our members feel let down, ignored and extremely angry. While we are forced to close for a month, these so called 'non essential retail items -clothing, gifts and accessories'-are being hawked for sale by supermarkets or other 'mixed' retailers.

"This second lockdown comes at the critical, pre-Christmas buying time and is in our members view, totally unacceptable and must be resolved quickly."

She said the group is putting together an online petition to press the Government to act.

"Whilst everyone understands the severity of Covid and BIB members will continue to remain closed as mandated, it's the inherent unfairness of it that resonates.

"Today I'm calling for all independent retailers whether it's a boutique, gift shop, toy shop, bookshop or anyone else whose been forced to close to make a stand, show unity and sign our petition."

A spokesman from the Department For Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that there were a raft of scheme to support businesses amid lockdown restrictions.

They said: "We recognise this continues to be a very difficult period for businesses, which is why we've confirmed that there will be a full package of financial support in place."

The Blackpool Gazette, Lancashire Post and sister papers are running a Click Local campaign to support local retailers forced to close amid the lockdown.

We are compiling a list of some of the businesses who have found ways to keep trading.

Whether it’s online ordering, deliveries or services delivered entirely online, there are a wealth of way people are getting creative to ensure shoppers have all they need on their virtual doorstep.

If your business is offering online ordering or deliveries and want to appear in our list, email [email protected] for details.

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