Another major step along the route to returning England to normality since the coronavirus pandemic began happened on 4 July with the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers, joining convenience stores that have been open throughout.
The service that I was most relieved to have available again is the hairdressers. As the country finds its way back to normally it is becoming clear that things will not be the same as they were before coronavirus struck.
I was fortunate to book an appointment with my barber on his first day back cutting hair. Being self-employed for five years, he was able to obtain support under the government scheme that has provided him with 80% of his average trading profits.
With two children under 11 years old, he and his wife have been affected by the school closures. The school that they attend has told parents that the breakfast club and after school clubs will not be available in September when the school reopens.
For my barber and his family this is a real problem, and his solution is to close his current shop in my village and move to premises near to his home. In the emerging new normality, his clients like me will find another barber and he will develop a new customer base.
This is just one example of how life is changing around us and, while most convenience stores and newsagents have been trading heroically without interruption through the pandemic, the demands on their businesses were constantly changing. It is too early to fully understand how consumers will behave as the crisis continues to subside.
From the conversation that I have had with my retired friends, none are in a hurry to return to the social life they previously enjoyed. None of them are yet willing to go to shops that they are not confident are safe. Those that have found or increased the use of online shopping are saying they will continue to use these services.
We must be confident that life will return to normal as it has after previous pandemics. For the foreseeable future it will be different. With the adjustments that are happening in many of the multiple high street businesses with employees being made redundant and some going into administration, change is clear to see.
As we head out of the coronavirus lockdown, for independent convenience stores and newsagents the big question is: Are your store policies, processes, training, layout and range still fit purpose to meet the demands of post-pandemic customers?
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