The easing of lockdown announced earlier this week is a vital opportunity for independents to “cement in” new customers as other businesses begin to re-open, according to experts.

They said the government’s lockdown easing was unlikely to help struggling stores and categories.

Supermarket specialist Bryan Roberts said transient footfall would remain low.

Store Excel managing director David Gilroy predicted “a very slow recovery” for categories that rely on on-the-go trade.

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Oppositely, stores performing well will experience a “strong summer of sales”, according to Gilroy.

Independent Retail Owners Forum founder Scott Annan said those who invested in home delivery and order-and-collect, and followed customer trends, could retain 50% to 75% of new customers. He suggested a mantra of “keep it simple” through range rationalisation and wider aisles.

All three experts forecast less support from suppliers in launches, promotions and events activity related to a disrupted sports calendar.

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Gilroy said: “There won’t be a need for the usual summer calendar when brewers are already struggling to meet demand.

“Events will be more about barbecue accessories, charcoal and a well-thought-out fresh and chilled range to cater to alfresco dining.”

Discussing the decision to allow sports to restart, Annan agreed the opportunity would be lower, but said associating lines with matches without cutting prices “should be enough” to win sales.

The government changed its position to encourage the use of face coverings in shops.

Annan claimed the advice will continue to result in low visit frequencies, high basket spend and delivery trends. “This will reinforce, not ease, people’s concerns about visiting stores,” he explained.

Roberts said: “It makes it a lot more challenging to communicate with customers. We’ve also seen that shoplifters are very happy with the opportunity face coverings present.”

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