Months of pent up spending, Christmas hangover, and consumers looking for friendly, non-digital interaction with their local retail scene spilled out onto High Streets across the UK on Monday, April 12th as the country took its next step forwards in the easing of lockdown.
Queues for barber shops extended around street corners, while coffee drinkers populated the outside seating arrangements of their favoured haunts, as the morning light cast new life across a retail landscape that had spent three long winter months behind shutters.
Toy shops, too, once again found their aisles filled with the excited chatter of children, signalling a much welcome emergence out of lockdown darkness, and into a retail scene that has well and truly sprung back to life.
Kids Korner Toy & Fancy Dress Shop in Herne Bay is one among the many cheered by the sight of young customers helping the till ring again, when it formally re-opened its doors to the public at 10am on Monday morning. Citing a pent up Christmas spend, owner, Melvin Smedley told ToyNews of the buzz of the re-opening among local children, now into the second week of Easter holidays.
“We’re very happy to be back open again, it’s a nice feeling to see the high street come back to life, the queues for shops and customers looking to spend some of that Christmas money or vouchers that they’ve been holding on to for three long months,” Smedley said.
“We’re expecting this week to be a spike in business. It’s the re-opening week, it’s Easter holidays, and people are back out. We’ll see a truer figure of it come next week, when it levels out to the normal numbers again. But I can’t say I’m not enjoying the current buzz.”
A toy and fancy dress shop located on the High Street shopping parade of the Kentish seaside town, Herne Bay, Kids Korner is one that benefits from the seasonal surge of British holidaymakers. With all signs pointing towards a summer of Great British vacationing this year as international travel restrictions remain in place, Smedley is cheered by what he believes will be a marker of what the summer business will bring.
“It’s just great to see, and that’s certainly what we’re planning for, a boom in footfall this summer,” he told ToyNews.
Meanwhile, Whirligig Toys, a specialist in the ‘things to make and do’ market, sprawling the South East with a fleet of four stores from Brighton to Tunbridge Wells, has been among a number of retailers to praise the support of the Government that has allowed toy shops the position to restart and ‘get back to business.’
Whirligig Toys owner, Peter Allinson, said: “Whirligig is delighted to be reopening today. We have had amazing support from our customers over lockdown, and brilliant backing from the government, meaning we are ready to restart and get back to business.”
Keen to capitalise on the surge in local shoppers, Allinson told ToyNews that it has been busy investing in an “amazing range of new products,” so that the shop can “open with lots of interesting discoveries.”
“It’s great to have the doors open again,” said Allinson.
It’s not just the small and local toy shops that are enjoying the easing of restrictions this week. The iconic London toy shop and tourist hot spot, Hamleys, has too marked the re-opening as a pinnacle moment. Hamleys is one of a number of retailers to have jumped onto the digital landscape over the course of the pandemic, with initiatives such as its launch onto the online marketplace eBay with its own branded online store, catering to the mass shift in shopping habits.
However, with weeks of diminished physical retail stacking up, the store has cheered the April 12th re-opening as the first step towards to the return of the in-store theatrics for which it is synonymous.
Hamley’s LEGO manager, Mark Campbell, said: “Being back is like seeing your best friend again after a decade and picking back up where you left off.”
Elsewhere, early figures from Springboard have showed a rise of 340 per cent in footfall to shopping centers alone week-over-week, while the number of visitors on high streets grew by nearly 233 per cent and to retail parks by 58.2 per cent on the same basis.
The number of shoppers is still 14.7 per cent lower than on the same day two years ago, before any lockdown measures were in place, said Springboard.