Coronavirus: Will stores reap the benefit in a post-lockdown world? – Kevin Buckle

Shoppers might return in numbers to the high street, but businesses will still need help and support, writes Kevin Buckle

By Kevin Buckle
Saturday, 18th April 2020, 6:00 am
Shoppers might be relieved to be able to go out to stores rather than buy online
Shoppers might be relieved to be able to go out to stores rather than buy online

When the high street does finally open there is one interesting dynamic I haven’t as yet seen discussed and that is whether more or fewer folk will return.

On one hand those who never dreamed of doing anything but order online have, once this has been forced on them, in some cases become nostalgic for a time when you could go shopping on the high street while others who never ordered online have now discovered it can be quite convenient.

This already happens in a far smaller way before Christmas when people who don’t shop online normally do so to get things they can’t find in shops and to a larger extent in the last few days before Christmas when people start returning to shops for things they either can’t find online or can’t get in time.

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Avalanche certainly used to gain a few customers every Christmas who returned but generally people would go back to their normal buying habits in the new year.

It is yet to be seen whether shops themselves will need to change to meet new customer expectations but I think if truth be told the Covid-19 virus has had such an effect on people’s lives that it is very hard to imagine how they will decide to behave in the future.

Edinburgh of course has its own very specific issues and that will put even further pressure on high street businesses as they try to recover.

It’s not clear what if any delay there will be with the Edinburgh St James opening but you can be sure they would like to open for Christmas.

At the same time all those empty shops being left behind now have even less chance of finding new businesses to fill them.

I’m sure Edinburgh Council will insist that bringing all the usual festivities back for Christmas if at all possible will be essential for the economy when this wasn’t necessarily the case before and in a post-virus world may be even less valid an argument.

It is concerning that already Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the UK in supporting businesses and I worry that the strategy Edinburgh will adopt will be to assume a model rather than react to what is happening.

Of course to react to what is happening on the street you have to speak to the businesses on the street, and that has never been a strong suit for the council.

For record shops today would have been Record Store Day and though it has been given a new date of 20 June it is hard to imagine how it can go ahead as normal given the crowds it attracts.

Fingers crossed shops will be open again by then but I’m not sure how Record Store Day will be managed and I don’t envy the organisers who will have to decide.

Early days, of course, in even thinking about what life will be like with shops back open but there is no doubt that things will not be easy and it just has to be hoped the help and support needed is forthcoming.