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Mum’s The Word

With people being strongly advised to work from home, others voluntarily self isolating or being advised to self isolate, and ‘social distancing’ rapidly becoming the norm, gift retailers up and down the country are holding their nerve for Mother’s Day on Sunday (March 22). asked a selection of gift shops how the event has been shaping up this week amid the government’s stark warnings.

At Love It in Stamford and Bury St Edmunds, co-owners Amanda and Will Oscroft say that they’ve been feeling very positive: “So far, we’ve had a very good run up to Mother’s Day. Our shops are busy, figures are up and we feel customers are ‘shopping local’ and supporting small business. Earlier this week there were people out and about enjoying the Spring weather and wanting to chat and have a bit of light relief. There’s no doubt that there are tough times ahead but for now we are staying positive.”

Above: Amanda and Will Oscroft, (centre and right), co-owners of Love It, Bury St Edmunds, are shown outside their Stamford shop with two Greats trophies, as well as a Retas award.  
Above: Amanda and Will Oscroft, (centre and right), co-owners of Love It, Bury St Edmunds, are shown outside their Stamford shop with two Greats trophies, as well as a Retas award.

It’s been a similar story at gift and card multiple House of Cards in the Home Counties, where gifts are a big part of the overall product mix. “So far trade is rocking,” confirmed co-owner Miles Robertson. “There were two very quiet weeks after Valentine’s Day but then it’s been supercharged. I suspect we may get this week out of it but, with a request for those aged 70 and over to self isolate, I think that we will see sales drop dramatically – although, of course, I’m hoping that won’t be the case.”

He adds: “The obvious changes are people buying early, clearly believing we may have a European type shutdown. We are planning on either being forced to close or having to run on reduced hours/days, but our overriding concern is to our staff, many of whom are older.”

Above: House of Cards’ co-owners Miles Robinson (left) and Nigel Williamson.
Above: House of Cards’ co-owners Miles Robinson (left) and Nigel Williamson.

Further North, “business is holding up,” says Keith Crowther, owner of La Cookshop in Blagdon, which increased its gift offer last year. “We’re still open, until we’re told differently by the government. Handbag sales are up so that says something. You just have to keep going.”

In North London’s Barnet, it’s been more of a mixed bag for Louise Rolfe, the owner of The Present. “With Mother’s Day the biggest gifting period outside of Christmas we made sure we bought in plenty of stock for it,” Louise confirmed. “Last weekend was average but we didn’t see a drop. Monday was also good. However, footfall has definitely been quieter this week. Shops around me on the high street have decided to close so I’ll have to see how it affects us toward the end of the week, although I feel as though people are trying to make a point of coming in to support us. It’s usually the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day that we are really busy so we will see by the end of the week. I think it will really start to notice this week as it’s only just kicked up a gear . I’m nervous for the first time in a long time.”

 Above: The Present, Barnet.
Above: The Present, Barnet.

It was mixed news too, from online gift retailer Adam Gore, founder of Find Me A Gift. “Stocked product sales have been down for Mother’s Day but gift experiences are doing very well because of the downloadable e-voucher. With people having so many other things on their mind at the moment, Mother’s Day is more last minute this year, with e-vouchers a really easy way to get round ‘social distancing’ as mums can download the voucher.”

Meanwhile at Papilio at Heritage in Thornbury, director Tabi Marsh says: “I’m afraid that Mother’s Day has gone off my radar! Unfortunately, the impact on the hospitality industry is huge, and being half coffee shop significantly impacts on us. Therefore since the government announcement all of my focus has shifted to rejigging that side of the business.”

Looking at the wider picture, Bob England, owner of England at Home in Brighton, says that “we will review every day. We will, of course, follow government advice and close our store when told to or we feel it is time – whichever is sooner.”

Above: England At Home, Brighton.
Above: England At Home, Brighton.

Continued Bob: “We have offered our part time staff extra hours this week so that we can give our premises continual cleaning and to help them build up some funds from their wages in case any of us are unable to work. We have also told them we will do our best to support them through the crisis when we have to close our doors temporarily. We have put plans in place to continue our internet delivery service. We have also decided to overhaul our website so some of us can be working at home to do this when the time comes. We had a few orders due for collection from customers in store and have contacted them to offer free delivery instead.”


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