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Party retailers make a cautious return to business

Party and fancy dress retailers across the UK have been able to open their doors for the first time since the end of March this week, as yesterday (Monday 15 June) marked the official opening date for non-essential retail businesses. 

Although some party retailers have been able to operate online delivery, collection or bespoke appointment systems, this marks the official ‘return to work’ for many businesses as retailers and consumers alike begin to work out what the much-discussed ‘new normal’ will look like.

Shirlee Gibbs, owner of The Dressing Up Shop in Aldershot, is pleased to be back in the shop with customers coming through the doors from the start.

“We have had enquiries on both the phone and in person,” she said. “We had alerted our customers that we would be open by every means possible! The town is busier than before, so people are obviously sounding out the shops that are open. I am expecting new stock but as yet it hasn’t arrived, luckily all the protection items did and are now in place. It’s nice to be back!”

Justin Cook, owner of Hollywood Fancy Dress, has seen a less positive start to the reopening, despite making the most of a fresh Smiffys delivery to help with the remerchandising.

“We opened two of our three branches today and – so far – we haven’t had a single person step through the door! It’s busy enough out there, but they are just walking past. It’s a little disheartening of course, but we’re going to keep at it and all our staff are doing their best to think of ways we can get consumers to come through the doors! We will stay open until Saturday and then see if we need to reassess our opening hours from there.”

Many fancy dress shops are biding their time, with guidance regarding costumes and changing rooms still unclear. Jean, the owner of Masquerade Fancy Dress in Watford, was in the store yesterday, primarily to measure up for safety screens.

The shop looked amazing, having not seen it for three months,” she said. “We will have safety screens in place and will be open by the end of the month. If there is a lack of customers we will keep busy by going through our hire costumes and photographing them. They might be useful one day in the future if we decide to retire, but having lived through the last three months of boredom it won’t be anytime soon!”

The final word goes to Kate Moore, owner of Jollyjesters in Derbyshire. Kate issued an online survey to her customers to ascertain demand levels and received over 200 replies.

“After analysing the results of our online survey, we’ve decided to operate an appointments-only system at least until the end of June. We’ve got sanitiser, masks, disposable gloves, tissues, a face-visor and a sneeze-guard all in place, and only groups of up to three people who are booked in together will be admitted at any one time,” she explained.

“The demand for fancy dress around here isn’t high enough to warrant being open full time yet, and the location of my shop, in a low footfall area, means I don’t get passing-trade. My first appointment is already booked in for tomorrow – a guy who needs a silly hat to wear for a Zoom quiz!”

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