Re-opening after lockdown: shopping, haircuts, pints and dinner out
Re-opening after lockdown: shopping, haircuts, pints and dinner out
Like many business owners, Marcello Moccia is delighted to be re-opening his doors – in his case, to Room 97 Creative, his three multi award-winning hairdressing salons in Wakefield and Leeds.
“We are currently booked up until the end of May across all three salons which is pretty amazing,” he says. “So we're really optimistic and looking forward.”
When the first lockdown hit the UK in March 2020, the team had just seen their “best year ever” and were in the process of setting up their third venue. “We were on a high, moving forward – and all of a sudden, the brakes were slammed on and the business was instantly shut,” explains Marcello.
It’s great to see some great big smiles, seeing all the team, getting everybody back in there and just generally doing what we've been doing for the last 25 years.
Owner and Director of Room 97 Creative
Re-opening in the summer, the business was on target to recover losses from the first lockdown by the end of 2020. Then of course, the salons had to be closed again.
“Lockdown was a big shock,” echoes Steven Griffiths, who owns Rotherham’s longest running gym, Total Rebuild, and runs it with his partner Siobhan Pullen. “For somebody to tell you that you can’t go to work and you can’t do your day-to-day things – we didn't know which way to turn.”
For both Steven and Marcello, Bounce Back Loans from Barclays and the support of the bank’s colleagues have been crucial in helping their businesses survive these challenges.
I think the more people that get back into work, the more they’ll need help – whether they're working from home or working from businesses, especially with all the puppies and the dogs that have been bought in lockdown.
Operations Director, Auntie’s Doggie Daycare
“My relationship manager Husam Khoury has been amazing – above and beyond,” says Marcello, who used the loan to cover the general costs associated with the salon, and to buy laptops that allowed him to take his training academy for schools, colleges and businesses online. “We've had conversations at seven in the morning and eight o'clock in the evening. His whole approach to hand-holding through the process has just been amazing.”
“It was a real lifesaver,” adds Steven. “I think within about 48 hours, we had the funds and it was a massive, massive weight off our shoulders. Without it, we wouldn't have been able to carry on trading. No doubt about it.”
For Pranee Laurillard, Co-Founder with her husband Andy of the Thai restaurant chain Giggling Squid, a £5m loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), facilitated by Barclays, has helped maintain “a strong position” during the closure of their 35 restaurants nationwide.
Our customers are very eager to come and socialise with each other. I think people might appreciate pubs and restaurants more, now that they've been taken away for a year.
The Blue Anchor, Byfleet
“The prospect of building the business to this size and scale and having it just disappear overnight was awful,” says Pranee. “The support through the bank was absolutely amazing. We could pay our suppliers in full because we knew we had cash. We are thrilled we can start welcoming guests back to our restaurants and get back to doing what we do best. First step – getting our teams back together and restaurants buzzing again!”
What’s in store
“I think retail has changed forever,” says Frances Bishop, founder of children’s clothing retailer The Pud Store. The pandemic forced her to pivot her business – with a Bounce Back Loan allowing her to invest in a warehouse and take trading online.
During this time, Barclays Business Manager Sinead McCall was a huge source of support, she says. “Barclays was there on a human level. They just did everything they could to help. I think stuff like that makes a huge difference. It's so stressful and just to have somebody at the end of the phone going, ‘I understand it’s really difficult, but keep going’ really helps.”
We are thrilled we can start welcoming guests back to our restaurants and get back to doing what we do best.
Co-Founder of Giggling Squid
Frances, who describes her three stores in Doncaster, Newark and Mansfield as her “favourite places in the world”, says her customers are excited to “get back to some sort of normality – just to come and see the clothes. It’s not the same shopping online. There is a thrill to shopping, from meeting up with friends for a coffee to having a mooch around the shop or putting the world to rights with a shop assistant.”
A contestant on the 12th series of BBC’s The Apprentice, Frances says that the “huge learning curve” she experienced during the pandemic has shaped her approach as her stores re-open. “Retailers have got to get more savvy,” she says. “I think they've got to really engage with local communities now. The public want an experience – they want to feel like they’re a part of something.”
Frances’ understanding of changing customer needs has been essential in the run up to re-opening, says her Business Manager, Sinead: “Fran is a fantastic people person and treats her customers like family – that’s been a key factor in the successful re-opening of her stores.”
David Parkinson, the Managing Director of Wilkinson Cameras, agrees that “the nature of the high street is evolving.” He says: “COVID-19 accelerated particularly the digital areas of our business. The world of retail will change but we'll just need to change with it – and we're already well on our way to making those changes.”
While the online business has been vital during store closures, David says both his customers and staff will be happy to be back in store to test out new cameras and lenses. “We're pretty confident that the customers will come back much quicker than they did after the first lockdown. So, we're hoping the rest of the year is going to be busy.”
Barclays was there on a human level. They just did everything they could to help
Founder of The Pud Store
Over at The Blue Anchor in Byfleet, Surrey, Matthew Greene has been busy getting the pub’s outdoor spaces ready for the return of his regulars. “Our customers are very eager to come and socialise with each other,” he says. “I think people need to sit somewhere else with a friend and chat. There’s definitely a demand for it. I think people might appreciate pubs and restaurants more, now that they've been taken away for a year – there might be a bit more appreciation for what they do for communities and social occasions.”
Even businesses like Auntie’s Doggie Daycare in Lancashire, which has been able stay open over the past few months to offer a range of services to dogs and their owners, say the re-opening will have a positive impact: “I think the more people that get back into work, the more they’ll need help – whether they're working from home or working from businesses,” explains Operations Director, Clare Pilkington, “especially with all the puppies and the dogs that have been bought in lockdown.”
We're pretty confident that the customers will come back much quicker than they did after the first lockdown. So, we're hoping the rest of the year is going to be busy.
Managing Director of Wilkinson Cameras
Back to business
Asked what he’s most looking forward to as lockdown eases, Marcello says he can’t wait to “see some life back in the businesses”.
He says the last 12 months have seen highs as well as lows at his hairdressing chain Room 97 Creative – whether dropping off mannequin heads to his students’ homes to ensure they can carry on with their hairdressing training, or winning North Western Hairdresser of the Year in the British Hairdressing Awards for the third time.
But the highlight is welcoming customers back to salon chairs for their long-awaited haircuts. “It’s great to see some great big smiles, seeing all the team, getting everybody back in there and just generally doing what we've been doing for the last 25 years,” he says.
“We are on track to get going very successfully – but I always know that if I do need anything from Barclays, I just have to make a phone call.”