Business / Shops hope to get back in business next week

Lerwick's Commercial Street.

RETAILERS are pinning hopes on a boost next week when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce an easing of shopping restrictions.

Living Lerwick project manager Emma Miller has been contacting businesses throughout Shetland to keep them abreast of what is needed to keep businesses “accessible and safe” when they open up again.

Miller, who has been undertaking the work as part of a business resilience project that also covers enterprises outside the Living Lerwick umbrella, said that while most rural shops have managed to stay open because of their provision of food essentials, street based clothes shops and the likes have been hit hardest.

She said: “I am really hoping that Nicola’s announcement on (next) Thursday will allow that to go ahead straight away.

“Folk are just picking away as best they can. A lot of folk are offering telephone sales or selling through Facebook or websites and doing as much as they can without being open.”

Emma Miller. Photo: Shetland News

But Miller said that a bigger challenge lay ahead when the “really good” furlough scheme runs out and employers would have to pay the bulk of staff wages themselves with no money coming into the business.

She added: “If footfall has not returned and they are not getting the business they normally had and they are still having to pay for staff costs – it is just simple economics, it does not compute in the longer term. We are just really, really keen to see some easing of the restrictions.”

Sturgeon on Monday signalled that if the figures show that the coronavirus spread continues to be suppressed, phase two of the return to a so-called “new normal” is likely to the announced.

She said: “If we do keep making the progress we have in the last few weeks, I am optimistic that 10 days from now at the next formal review, we will be able to move, at least in part, into the next phase of our route map out of lockdown, with more individual freedoms restored and more businesses able to open up and operate again.”

Miller, who is also chairwoman of Shetland Tourism Association, said that the government scheme to help bed and breakfasts was very welcome, with grants of £3,000 available, but other sectors of tourism, such as the cruise ship trade, were looking at a blank season.

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