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How UK high street retailers can respond to coronavirus concerns

Following the news that UK high street sales have dipped over the past month, with consumers responding to the stormy weather and coronavirus fears, Richard Aylett, founder and owner of balloon and party wholesaler Balloon World, takes a look at how retailers can respond to coronavirus concerns as the situation moves forward.

“As Flybe goes to the wall and tourism declines across the uk, are we are now starting to see the effect on businesses that the ‘Coronavirus Effect’ is having?

As if the helium crisis wasn’t enough, we now have another threat to business in the form of a two-pronged attack.

Firstly, if a member of your team becomes unwell it’s common sense to ask the rest of your colleagues to self-quarantine as well. To not do so could have a hazardous effect on both your business and your health,.

Secondly, as the nation gets gripped by panic we may see people stop going to places where people congregate – including parties and other celebrations – which of course will have a detrimental effect on the industry.

To minimise the effect on your health and that of your colleagues health and to further minimise the risk of catching the virus, here are just a few handy tips to reduce your risk:

  • Try to encourage your customer to pay by contactless or ideally bank transfer, if you do take cash at least have a sanitiser close to your till to clean your hands afterwards. The World Health Organisation has advised people against using cash where possible as the Coronavirus (Covid-19) may cling to the surface of paper money.
  • Try to avoid physical contact where possible – avoid shaking hands, etc.
  • Regularly wipe down shop counters, door handles, phones and other areas people touch. It is believed that coronavirus can survive on surfaces up to nine days at room temperature.

If you have to close your shop for a short time or sales continue to decline don’t suffer in silence. Wages still have to be paid, as do all the other bills associated with running a business and there are many ways to look for support.

If you pay business rates speak to your local council, most local councils collect the business rates over ten month period and give a two month grace period at the end of the year. Ask if you can bring forward your grace period to the beginning of the year (April) rather than the end – many councils will see this as a way to show their support, especially with local elections coming up in May.

Speak to your bank regarding freezing the interest on your overdraft or ask for an overdraft increase. Banks will prefer to work with you rather than see you close. Also do not be afraid to approach your landlord and ask for a rent free period – these are likely to be extenuating and difficult circumstances and as much as they will also be feeling the pinch they will not want an empty property.

A lot of this is common sense and hopefully it will blow over, but I think it makes sense to be prepared for all eventualities hopefully we will look back on this as just another challenge to our business.”

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