I’m popping to the shops – does anyone want anything?

Non-essential shopping gets the green-light. But how will coronavirus impact the future of retail? We asked four of our most-loved stores to weigh in.

On 15th June, non-essential stores swung their doors open to the public after 12 weeks of lockdown. Cooped up punters, tired of their weekly Tesco trips and occasional garden centre jaunts, were quick to queue up two metres apart on the streets for a much needed retail therapy hit. 

However, the pandemic is far from over and a threat of a second wave looms menacingly close. To keep both at bay, the government has enforced strict measures for stores to abide by while reopening, including: no more hot and sweaty changing rooms, an excess of hand sanitiser pumps and restrictions on the number of people allowed in the store at one time.

We checked in with a few of our favourite outlets to see what they make of the new normal and how they think the coronavirus will impact the industry in the long run. 

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Nasir Mazhar, Founder of Fantastic Toiles

What did you miss about going to a physical store while in lockdown?

I didn’t miss a thing tbh. I loved everything being closed.

Now that shops can re-open, what safety precautions are you taking and how has Covid-19 changed the way your business works?

Our space is really small so we’ll only be letting two people in at one time and we’ll have some hand sanitiser for your mitts. Apart from those new safety precautions and having to close during lockdown, Covid-19 hasn’t really changed much else – but let’s see, we haven’t opened yet.

Now that we can buy non-essential purchases, what’s top of your list?

The first thing I bought was some fabric – surprise, surprise – and some scalpel blades.

Which brands are you most excited about this season?

We don’t really stock brands so much, more designers and artists but I couldn’t choose – there’s so much. Come and get excited yourself. 

How do you think Covid-19 will affect people’s attitude towards consumption?

I’d like to think that people have realised they don’t need half of the stuff they buy and consume – hopefully, people will buy less mass-produced and more local and independent. Stop buying from mega suppliers and chain stores. But unfortunately, one big thing is that if people start consuming less, a lot of businesses will go bust. A lot of jobs will be lost. We don’t have the infrastructure for people to work less. Media wouldn’t allow us to consume less because they only survive through advertising – and advertising mega brands, not small independent designers and brands.

We would need a revolution for us to consume less. Which we need regardless. For our culture to be more about local, independent and sustainable [businesses] we would need so many changes in government and the tax system, and property pricing, and just so many things…

When I saw the queues round the block outside of Primark when they were allowed to open, I realised a lot of the people will just go straight back into their existing habits. A lot of people are really brainwashed because of the media.

Covid-19 gave us all time to think, but unless there are huge changes in our government, I sadly feel that the majority of people will go back to the same old habits because the world we live won’t allow us to change. It’s built on capitalism. 

@fantastictoiles

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Ben Banks, Brand Director at 18montrose

What did you miss about going to a physical store while in lockdown?

A store creates a sense of community, a sense of discovery – that’s our mission with 18montrose. When you visit our store environment, the way spaces and products divert the eye challenge and stimulate choices, and tell a broader story of style.

Now that shops can re-open, what safety precautions are you taking and how has Covid-19 changed the way your business works?

We have followed government guidance and it seems, especially in big cities, that it may take a little time for confidence to return, along with the need to have the flow of commerce, travel, hospitality and leisure that makes up the dynamic, especially in a capital city like London. E‑commerce has grown further as a percentage of sales and how this works in relation to stores will be an ongoing narrative which we have always placed at the heart of what we do.

How do you think Covid-19 will affect people’s attitude towards consumption?

People will consider the lifetime value of their purchase, how it enriches their experiences, the authenticity, versatility and quality of products will be ever more important. I expect to see less but better consumption.

Now that we can buy non-essential purchases, what’s top of your list?

In the hope of a holiday, I need some new pool slides. I’ve always found this a product you need to try for comfort. The big question is whether I should buy some socks to go with them!

Which brands are you most excited about this season?

I’m not one to single out an individual brand, we have some great products coming into the business this winter and I see us well set to challenge and progress the current retail environment. Plenty of Japanese brands – Kapital, Black Eye Patch, Neighborhood, Undercover – and for winter Moncler, Stone Island and CP Company’s urban protection pieces will enrich [people’s] wardrobes. As ever, there will be some must-have sneaker launches to support our strong offer of footwear. We’ve also invested in more women’s products for this new season.

18mon​trose​.com

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Adrian Gordon, Store Experience Manager at Browns East

What did you miss about going to a physical store while in lockdown? 

Playing dress-up. I love trying on new items, interacting with the garments and also interacting with staff and customers. I’m a pretty social person so social distancing has been a big adjustment for me.

Now that shops can re-open, what safety precautions are you taking and how has Covid-19 changed the way your business works?

Now that we have reopened we have quite a few measures in place to keep our staff and customers safe; we have sanitising stations for staff and customers to sanitise their hands, limited capacity of customers in-store and a one-to-one service for customers where a style advisor will be available to host and guide them through the store. We have also provided our staff with masks and gloves if they are unable to maintain a two-meter distance, and there is a bookable private shopping experience called Store For One which customers can book on our website.

How do you think Covid-19 will affect people’s attitude towards consumption?

I think customers will be more conscious about the things they spend their money on, buying quality pieces that are going to last, instead of shopping on impulse.

Now that we can buy non-essential purchases, what’s top of your list?

After being locked inside for the last three months, I’m in need of some retail therapy! There are some fun pieces from Casablanca that I’ve had my eye on and I think it’s time to treat myself.

Which brands are you most excited about this season?

I’m really excited about Bottega Veneta this season. Also, you can’t go wrong with a Prada bowling shirt in the summer.

browns​fash​ion​.com

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Carin Nakanishi, Head of Couverture & The Garbstore

What did you miss about going to a physical store while in lockdown? 

I find it much easier to shop physically – it’s so important to be able to have the touch and feel of the item in hand. It could be the materials, or some tech qualities used within a product, or just the way it sits on your body. You can tell straight away if something is well-made, which doesn’t necessarily translate as well online. I also love speaking to shop staff as they often have so much knowledge and can help you with questions.

Now that shops can re-open, what safety precautions are you taking and how has Covid-19 changed the way your business works?

Our online store did really well throughout lockdown so we will look to continue supporting that side of the business. We’ve been open again for two weeks, and it’s been really nice welcoming our customers back and seeing some familiar faces. Of course, health and safety is paramount – we are taking all necessary precautions and have provided hand sanitiser at the entrance of the shop and strongly advise our customers to use it before entering the store as well as wearing face masks. We have our one-to-one personalised shopping experience that is available as morning and evening slots; as well as a new virtual shopping service that we are introducing via FaceTime.

How do you think Covid-19 will affect people’s attitude towards consumption?

We’ve found that people are still spending money whether that is the money they have saved during lockdown or treating themselves to a new summer item; it seems people have the desire, more than ever to enjoy new and exciting things.

Now that we can buy non-essential purchases, what’s top of your list?

I’ve already bought so much recently! I have some new summer sandals from Keen which are great, as well as some new t‑shirts from Japan’s Sunray Sportswear which are cut so well, don’t shrink and are perfect for summer.

Which brands are you most excited about this season?

We’ve got some great bits coming in from Kapital and Story MFG for autumn/​winter. As well as a new Korean brand called Conichiwa Bonjour that do really nice, playful riffs on US Ivy League collegiate sweatshirts. I’m also excited to introduce Affix to our store, as I’ve known [head designer] Taro [Ray] since we were kids and he’s been part of the Garbstore family for a long time. 

cou​ver​ture​andthe​garb​store​.com


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