We may only be in Phase One of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘route map’ out of lockdown with three more phases to go, but the recent very slight easing of lockdown conditions is the first major sign that we have finally set foot on that long and winding road back to normal or, as the already cliched phrase has it, the ‘new normal’.
The world has undoubtedly changed over the last few months. Shoppers have changed. Retailers have changed. How people view their communities has changed. How people shop has changed. What people consider important has changed. And do you know what? A lot of that change is for the better.
The world has, it seems to me, become a little less self-obsessed and a little more awake to the fact that we are all in this big thing called life together and we all need a little help now and again.
Local retail has of course been at the heart of this shift with retailers across Scotland and the rest of the UK demonstrating that retail in its deepest sense means more than just selling stuff. Yes, being able to provide communities with the vital products and services they need is fundamental to any well-functioning community. But there’s so much more to true community retailing – and coronavirus has opened more shoppers’ eyes than ever to this fact.
The relationships between local retailers and their communities are stronger than ever, but like all good relationships, it’s a two-way street. We need to be there for each other in the good times as well as the bad.
Let’s be honest, coronavirus has offered our sector a rare opportunity to truly shine – and by god, our sector has done itself proud. But what we really need to come out of this whole calamity is a legacy. We need many of the shoppers who now use our stores to stick with us.
There are many research studies that suggest they will – but we can’t rely on them doing so simply because of goodwill. Goodwill has a habit of not lasting. No, we need to keep developing our stores and our offer to give them as many compelling reasons as possible to stick with us in the long term.
The time to start thinking about how you create that legacy in your community is now, if you haven’t done so already. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we must not squander.
Antony Begley, Publishing Director