Lockdown anniversary: Convenience stores ‘more appreciated than ever’
A minute’s silence was held across Northern Ireland on 23rd March to mark the first anniversary of the Covid lockdown. Tributes have been paid to those who lost loved ones – and to all the frontline workers – including retailers and their staff who stepped up to the mark – supplying essential goods and services.
Convenience stores have taken on a new importance over the past 12 months as people spend more time in their local community, according to new research commissioned by PayPoint.
PayPoint sales data confirms increased reliance on independent retailers, revealing an average basket spend increase of 33% year-on-year, rising from £5.61 in February 2020 to £7.47 in February 2021. The UK’s average basket spend peaked at £8.10 in April last year and this momentum has been sustained throughout Covid-19 pandemic as people continue to choose to shop locally.
Conducted by One Poll, the survey revealed that two in three said their local convenience store has become more important to them over the past 12 months and 22% relied on their local convenience store to supply essentials unavailable elsewhere (eg supermarkets) during lockdown.
The reliability of the local convenience store has also been recognised. More than a quarter of respondents (27%) say they will do more local shopping after lockdown has ended, a sign that the neighbourhood shop has become a cornerstone of communities up and down the country. The best is yet to come, says the survey, as Gen Z rank the cornershop as the most valuable local institution.
On the anniversary of the UK entering lockdown on March 23 2020, NFRN National President Stuart Reddish reflects on the past year for independent retailers.
When the Prime Minister announced the first national lockdown on March 22 last year, nobody knew what the future held and how long the situation would last.
“Despite all the uncertainty and unprecedented changes to everyday life that the Covid pandemic presented, retailers throughout the UK and Ireland rose to each and every challenge. The NFRN quickly responded to the first lockdown by launching its highly successful Shop Local, Shop Little campaign to support its members, and more and more people turned to their smaller local stores for their essential goods” he said.
“In spite of all the difficulties and personal risk presented by the pandemic, thousands of retailers have continued to go above and beyond to serve their communities. Many have introduced home delivery services for the elderly and vulnerable, while others have increased their charitable work by providing food and other essentials free of charge to the needy.
“The NFRN soon realised that some of its members were struggling and needed financial help to see them through these hard times. With support from its districts and branches and retail partners, the Covid-19 Hardship Fund was created, reaching a total of £250,000.
“So far £125,000 has been paid out in grants to more than 100 businesses suffering severe financial difficulties caused by forced closure or decimated footfall due to the government restrictions” said Stuart.
However, a major negative among all the positives provided by the retail industry has been the increase in verbal and physical attacks on shopworkers.
Be Kind, Be Patient
This prompted the NFRN to launch a poster campaign – Be Kind, Be Patient – which urged people to wear face masks and treat staff and other customers with respect while shopping in their local stores.
While the vast majority of customers appreciate the hard work and determination of retailers to serve and protect them, unfortunately a small minority have continued to verbally and physically assault staff, particularly around the issue of enforcing the wearing of face coverings.
“This is completely unacceptable. The NFRN has stepped up the pressure on the government to introduce tougher punishment for those who carry out these despicable crimes and will continue to lobby MPs to provide the protection that shopworkers deserve” he said.
“To say the last year has been hard for businesses is, of course, a huge understatement, but I am extremely proud of the way our members have responded to the challenges.
“Now, as we come out of this latest lockdown, hopefully we can all look forward to a better and brighter future.”