March 23rd 2020 is a date that we will not forget! We closed the shop doors at The Shoe Station and Canopy with little understanding of how long the lockdown would last and what that might mean for our staff, our customers and our businesses. It was the right thing to do, but it was scary. Both shops operate purely as old fashioned bricks and mortar retail outlets, none of this modern e-this and e-that!
What message were we going to give to our loyal and lovely staff, some of whom have been with us for more than 15 years? There were many sleepless nights. But then came the announcement of the Job Retention Scheme and that lifted a huge cloud. We were able to furlough all of our staff with the promise that we would get them all back to work as soon as possible.
It was then time to focus 100% on what damage-limitation we could take to help the businesses through the long days ahead. The phones were ringing from very early on in lockdown and it was from those calls that our Free Home Delivery service began to take shape. We worked behind closed doors to fulfil orders and spent the evenings on our “DeliverShoo” bikes cycling all over West London. We can’t thank our customers enough for their warm welcome and gratitude. As lockdown went on, we introduced a by-appointment doorstep shoe fitting service, much to the entertainment of those queuing at Tescos!
After 84 days of closure, and after much creativity, time and money spent on making the shops COVID-safe, it was an enormous relief to reopen our doors on June 15th. Clearly this is going to be a very difficult year for a vast number of small businesses like ours. We will have to dig deep and work hard to recover from 3 disastrous months. We daren’t even utter the phrase “second spike”! We fear the impact of social distancing and the reduced footfall as well as the shrunken economy. It’s too early for us to know the affect on our many supply chains, but there will undoubtedly be challenges ahead.
But there’s a very positive message that rings through. Throughout closure, and even more so now, we have felt a huge sense of community in Kew. The words of support from our loyal and local customers have given us much comfort and hope. There are ways in which we can adjust our business practices to fit with the new normal but, most importantly, for the future of Kew Village and its survival, we hope that the shop-small, shop-local mentality is not forgotten. We remain optimistic!