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Shopping by appointment is not working

© Clark Street Mercantile via Unsplash

The measure introduced two weeks ago which allows shopping in non-essential retail stores by appointment only is a failure and needs to be scrapped, according to the federation of the retail sector, Comeos.

On 27 March the Consultative Committee ordered all non-essential shops to close, but compared to the first lockdown a year ago allowed one concession: shops could continue to serve customers who had made a prior appointment, who came alone and who wore a mask at all times.

But the measure has not been a success, the federation now says, based on a poll of fashion shops, which make up the major part of shopping centres.

According to members, 75% of shoppers have decided to stay away, and takings are down by 65%, compared to the same period two years ago before the coronavirus made an appearance. For one chain, the fall in earnings was as much as 81%.

The number of customers has plunged, with one chain reporting 15 customers a day, compared to 200 a day in better times.

The broad consensus is that shopping is simply not enjoyable in the circumstances imposed. Making purchases when required is a necessity, but shopping – particularly for clothes –is also a leisure activity, which requires company, time, lack of pressure and ease of access: what retailers refer to as fun shopping.

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And while shoppers and takings are through the floor, fixed costs like rent remain unchanged. Meanwhile, staff are largely on temporary unemployment, to the tune of between 20% and 60%. For the month of March that meant some 30,000 shop workers laid off, with April likely to be worse.

To add to the difficulties, shops that choose to receive customers have to spend to meet the requirements of the virus, Comeos says. That means signposting, sanitisers, staff training , security measures.

The situation is becoming untenable,” the federation said. “All retailers, therefore, insist that the appointment rule disappear and make way for the previous measure of one customer per ten square metres.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times