Shop out to Help out? No need, say independent retailers

Henry Layte, Book Hive, Norwich

'It looks set to be busy': Retailer Henry Layte who runs the Book Hive in Norwich reckons a 'Shop out to Help out' scheme may not be needed. - Credit: Archant

Owners of independent stores in Norfolk are confident in a high street bounce back come April 12.

Many are so certain of the boost coming when they can reopen their doors, they rejected the idea of a government-backed scheme.

It comes as some national retailers are calling for a 'Shop Out to Help Out' scheme like the one aimed at restaurants last year.

Discounts of 50pc - with the shortfall compensated by the government - would be used to entice shoppers back into physical stores.

Lisa Angel shop opens in Intu Chapelfield. Lisa pictured in the new shop.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Lisa Angel is in favour of a Shop out to Help out scheme. - Credit: Archant

Some in Norwich - like Lisa Angel and Langleys toy store - said they would support it, but others were against the idea.

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Some owners fear it would bring too many people, causing problems with social distancing. Others believe people will return to the high street unprompted.

However, retail analyst Joshua Bamford said he thought it would take time for the high street to recover and a Shop Out scheme would not be enough to kick-start it.

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Mr Bamford, director of the Centre of Retail Research in Norwich, said: "There will be 10-20pc of people who still have an overwhelming feeling of anxiety about going back into shops, and they need to be persuaded.

"It's going to be a struggle for retailers. They need to look at what people want and are buying online; and then replicate the benefits of buying online.

"When you go along Haymarket and Gentleman's Walk, you see how many shops have permanently closed, it is very barren so it's all about how you excite the shopper again. The lockdowns really did kill retail. 

"Norwich will do well from being a holiday destination and the high street isn't just about shops but it's about getting a coffee and lunch too so it will return but may take time."

The Book Hive, Norwich

The Book Hive in Norwich - Credit: Archant

Henry Layte, who runs the Book Hive, in London Street, said: "Without sounding over confident, it already looks set to be busy. I'm really hopeful, people are itching to get back, they've been ringing up asking: 'when are you opening?'

"We are doing a big shop window using local artists and making our shop feel as lovely as we can. I have been ordering new stock so the shop will be bursting with new delights."

Claire Harris, Whispers boutique, Norwich

Claire Harris, who runs the Whispers clothing boutique, Taverham Garden Centre. - Credit: Archant

Claire Harris, who runs the Whispers ladies boutique, in Taverham Garden Centre, was also against the idea. "I think a Shop Out scheme might end up with queues of bargain hunters and a free for all. We want people to have a safe, enjoyable experience shopping, we are limited to how many people can come into the shop at any one time.

"We have filled the store with stock priced as low as possible but a discount scheme would just end up making people feel cross if they couldn't get into the store."

But Lisa Angel, who has stores in both the Lanes and Chantry Place, said: "Independent shops are in need of a much deserved boost as we approach April 12. If we want our high streets to remain vibrant destinations we need to think about how best we can support their future viability.

"Last years’ Eat Out to Help Out scheme for pubs and restaurants really made a difference ... this sort of scheme would help it get back on its feet so that the people of Norfolk can continue to enjoy the diversity of shopping opportunities that’s currently on offer.”

MD of Langleys, Steve Scott. Pic; Archant.

Managing director of Langleys, Steve Scott. - Credit: Archant

Steve Scott, owner of Langley's toy store, with a shop in the Royal Arcade and Chantry Place, agreed. "We have two sizeable stores which weren't overrun with people that we needed to impose social distancing at Christmas. People hopefully will feel a lot more relaxed than they did at Christmas if they've had the vaccine and I am the eternal optimist.

"It would be a nice problem to have to think how to organise the shop because we had so many customers so yes, bring it on."

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