‘Customers aren’t behaving normally’ - shop owner says businesses have to work harder to provide service
PUBLISHED: 12:19 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:19 01 July 2020
A Norfolk shop owner has said businesses have to work harder at providing a service and hopes customers will be encouraged to return to town after more stores reopen.
Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink on the High Street in Downham Market, reopened her shop doors on Tuesday, June 16.
The women’s dress agency boutique closed in March and like many businesses adapted during lockdown by making use of social media to continue trade.
But Mrs Moloney said despite people expressing their delight at the shop reopening, customers are still “terrified” which has resulted in her running a closed shop, offering one on one or virtual appointments via FaceTime.
The 62-year-old said: “Customers aren’t behaving normally. It’s quite surprising how many people seem very frightened.
“I had one customer tell me it was quite terrifying, a lot of people are still a bit wide eyed with fear.
“As a shop keeper, we have to work harder at providing a service because it’s definitely changed and I don’t see it going back to the way it was before in a long time.”
Before coronavirus the shop would see between 200 to 300 customers every week but that has now been reduced to around 20 a day.
This change has meant business has largely been moved online, with Facebook a successful platform for Mrs Moloney to connect with customers.
“You have to be grateful for much bigger things and rise above,” she said.
“As long as I can pay my bills and the shop, then that’s great.
“Some people have been absolutely devastated with loss and things will never be the same but behaviour changes and people start buying online.
“As a business you either sink or you float, there’s no midway really.”
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The shop keeper said the initial excitement of reopening in the first week has died down to “almost nothing” at the moment.
She added: “Business has been okay, it wasn’t as good as it was because there’s a lower percentage of people coming into the shop. It’s not what it was at all.
“I’m hoping when hairdressers and that open up people will be a bit more comfortable.
“But I think there’s a lot of people who have been really badly affected by it, whether it be mental health or financially and it stops people in their tracks for a while.
“I remember when 9/11 happened and people just stopped for a while and then you start off again. I think all the businesses, including myself, are happy to work a lot harder.
“But I’ve been doing a lot more online and doing live videos, showing new stock. Doing the videos feels like you’re bridging the gap, which for me is important.”
But the new way of working has not gone down well with everyone, after a customer took issue with store safety measures.
Mrs Moloney said a woman walked out of her shop after refusing to use hand sanitiser before being able to touch stock.
She said: “It’s for everyone’s protection and as a trader it’s expected of me.
“I probably lost a customer but that’s what she needed to do to be able to touch the stock.”
Despite this encounter, she said it was encouraging to see the town’s businesses support one another and hopes people will shop local.
The 62-year-old said: “I hope this feeling of cherishing others continues.
“We have a specialness in Downham, which is a real precious gem to hold onto and it will be such a shame if the high street goes down the pan because customers have learnt to shop in a different way.
“It would be heartbreaking because there’s lovely businesses in the town who keep their light under a bushel, they don’t flout it.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed that things will pick up and we’ll all hopefully be even better than before because people will hopefully choose to shop local.”
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