'Help for us to regain losses would be welcomed': Independent retailers back scheme to boost tills as they gear up to reopen

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Retail campaigners are now calling for an Eat Out to Help Out-style scheme to boost the tills of independent shops when they finally reopen their doors on April 12.

They will have had their shutters down for more than three months, as non-essential retailers closed their doors on January 5 when the country plunged into another lockdown.

And as their long-awaited reopening nears, campaign group Save The Street has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to support the sector by offering customers a 50 per cent reduction off the cost of goods at independent retailers up to a price of £10.

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It is suggested that such a scheme could run for one month this summer with discounts available to shoppers from Monday to Wednesday only, and limited to independent enterprises with fewer than 10 employees that sell through physical stores.

Hollywood Exports in Preston is among the shops reopening on April 12Hollywood Exports in Preston is among the shops reopening on April 12
Hollywood Exports in Preston is among the shops reopening on April 12

Much like the Eat Out to Help Out restaurant scheme of last August, the Government would reimburse retailers for the discount, with customers only able to use it once per transaction.

Matthew Taylor and Kay Pickles own Hollywood Exports - a vintage clothing store on Fox Street in Preston and are gearing up to open their second store on King Street, Clitheroe on April 12.

Matthew previously told the Post that the business used online store Depop to keep their heads above water whilst their shop has been shut.

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He said: "Bringing in this scheme would help get the customer back on the high street and could bring more revenue in that way because shoppers will make the most of the deals.

Shoppers are encouraged to support the high street when non-essential stores reopen next weekShoppers are encouraged to support the high street when non-essential stores reopen next week
Shoppers are encouraged to support the high street when non-essential stores reopen next week

"Ultimately, we have been closed for so long that I think people will be desperate to get back out on the high street either way, with or without the scheme. The fact we are just reopening is the boost we need.

"Although a scheme like this would help, it is a drop in the ocean compared to what could've been done and the support we should have been given since the beginning. The grants haven't been evenly distributed to smaller businesses and haven't even covered my rent and other outgoings with being closed.

"From our point of view, our business model is already built around being affordable, so even though the scheme would still encourage people to come and support businesses, I think people are so desperate to get out that we would be busy regardless."

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And Linda Monk, owner of Freckle Boutique, Heskin, said: "I would absolutely welcome this scheme if it was introduced because it would be an amazing idea to help small independent businesses get back on their feet.

Linda Monk, owner of Freckle Boutique would welcome the schemeLinda Monk, owner of Freckle Boutique would welcome the scheme
Linda Monk, owner of Freckle Boutique would welcome the scheme

"It worked so well for the food and drink industry and would be ideal for businesses who have been closed because they have lost so much this year and any help for them to regain losses would be welcomed.

"It would depend on how we would go about reclaiming the money back, how the scheme would actually work and whether or not it would include all non-essential retailers but I certainly would welcome the scheme in my shop.

"I can't wait to get my doors open again - I have a lot of interaction with my customers on social media and know they are desperate to get out shopping and supporting us again. There is an element of apprehension there because our most important thing is the safety of our customers."

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Linda also praised the 'Buy Unique, Shop Boutique' campaign which is also backed by the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA).

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UK stores are now down £27 billion in lost sales during the three English lockdowns and related closures in the other nations, according to British Retail Consortium figures, with 67,000 retail jobs lost between December 2019 and 2020.

Mark Whittle, manager of Preston City Centre BID told the Post: "The high street has been severely affected by the pandemic, it will rely on support from of all of us, the government, local authorities, and the general public to stabilise.

"A safe and confident return, will create more opportunity for businesses, and in turn, secure the contribution they make to the wider city, and the employment opportunities they create. The retail sector represents 20 per cent of the UK’s GDP. The big brands, and our great independent businesses, should all have the opportunity to trade positively.

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"High street premises are costly operations with many businesses operating on very tight margins. We continue to call for a complete, and long term overhaul of business rates, and more national support to stimulate our high streets and protect local jobs.

"It’s hoped that the road map remains on track, and we are able to get out and safely support our local businesses, of all sizes, from April 12."

Retail technology entrepreneur and founder of Save The Street Ross Bailey said: "We would be kidding ourselves to think that everything will be fine for independent retailers once they reopen on April 12.

"The damage has been done over the last 12 months, now it is the Government's responsibility to support these businesses and ensure they are given a fighting chance to bounce back.

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"Independent retail is the heart and soul of communities across the UK. If the Government doesn't support them now, it won't just bankrupt thousands of businesses, it will irrevocably damage the society we all live in."

And the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: "We know the Eat Out to Help Out scheme really brought customers back to hospitality venues last summer, and we are sure that a similar initiative for retail would have the same effect.

"Much of retail has borne the brunt of this pandemic and this scheme would help give a much-needed boost to high streets and consumer confidence."

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