The Grand Reopening | Michael Wainwright on Boodles’ recovery
It’s been a month since shops in England were allowed to reopen – but how are Britain’s luxury retailers finding life ‘post pandemic’? We’re speaking to the leaders of Walpole member businesses – both privately and publicly – to find out whether customers are returning to stores, what the challenges and opportunities are, and how government and local councils can aid with retail recovery – beginning with Michael Wainwright, the Managing Director of fine jewellery brand Boodles.
How have the first few weeks of reopening been for your business?
Not particularly good nor bad. Footfall has been incredibly low but due to the relationships we already have, some significant business has been done – often involving visits to customers’ houses. As footfall is so low, gaining new customers is currently difficult but there is definitely some demand for mid to higher ticket items from existing customers.
What are the challenges?
Enhancing footfall in the absence of offices opening and tourists being around, and getting access to existing good customers – especially older ones who are very nervous about travelling in London or other cities. The answer lies in the government-lifting restrictions, recommending people to go back to their offices, and reducing the fear of a second Covid spike.
And what are the positives?
Our enduring relationships with existing customers are even more evident than usual, and there is definitely a degree of pent-up demand due to people not having spent any money recently. Plus wealthy people are still wealthy.
What’s the response to reopening been from customers and your teams?
The response from our teams has been 100% positive with everyone wanting to return from furlough and seemingly happy to travel into our shops. The response from customers has been more mixed – some turn a blind eye to health and safety measures, others remain very cautious.
How can government and or local council help with aiding retail recovery?
A reduction of VAT to, say, 12.5% on bricks and mortar retail would be a huge help to shops and the high street in general. Other measures would include subsidising car parking in city centres to encourage people in; reducing restrictions on inbound tourists, especially from the USA and the Middle East; and scrapping business rates permanently.