Have you seen the petition ‘Non Essential’ shops should be allowed to stay open during the current lockdown on the Parliament website?

The petition is to allow ‘non-essential’ shops to stay open during the lockdown; including shops such as greetings cards shops, florists, clothes and shoe shops, electronics shops, music shops as long as they have taken all the COVID secure measures.

The petition was started by the owner of Cards Galore, and the GCA support the argument that “the Government’s definition of ‘non-essential’ is superficial and not all-encompassing. Although not selling food or medicine, these shops still create employment, preserve livelihoods, are valued by communities and sell goods that improve morale; therefore they are undoubtedly ‘essential’ in more ways than one. Furthermore, when closed due to lockdown, their trade is absorbed by larger supermarkets and online businesses, creating unfair competition and risking their survival in the long-term.

I mentioned it to my wife last night and she can see the point and has sympathy with it, but in her words, “that’s stretching it”. I agree.

The intent of lockdown is to keep people off the streets, so I don’t think the Government should open the gates to putting more people on the streets. Food is essential for the continuance of life, cards aren’t. Nor are flowers nor new shoes or clothes.

The unpleasant fact for those trading from bricks and mortar stores is that a month without flowers is not going to hurt like a month without food would hurt. But these businesses are fighting for survival, so the line in the sand for them is different than for others who are not so concerned about their survival.

There is another factor though.

The survival of small shops and the High Street is very important. During the last lockdown, people walked in the parks when they were allowed to. The weather was good, so they went to the parks.

When the weather is not good and the shops were closed and the parks were empty, people stayed at home. I have no doubt they wanted to visit shops, have a coffee, see other people on the street. I have no doubt because that is what we see during normal times. People want to be near other people.

Without a High Street there will be a rent in the social fabric that is not easy to repair. When I walk in town and see the boarded-up shops in prosperous Cambridge, it makes me worried for the future. It is not just money, it is social interaction that is at stake.

Posted by:David Bennett

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