Seven-in 10 independent retailers reopen but concerns remain over pace of high street recovery, American Express reports

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Over seven in 10 (72%) independent retailers that closed their doors in March plan to reopen in mid-June (where they are allowed to do so), according to research from American Express.

The encouraging news that independent shops are in a position to open comes as the vast majority of small retailers (89%) felt confident they could make the necessary adjustments to keep customers safe while shopping.

However, recovery will take time; just over one third (34%) of retailers thought they would be trading at pre-lockdown levels by December 2020, rising to 56% who felt they would be back to normal by the end of 2021.

American Express launches campaign to support independent retailers

The findings come as American Express announces a £16 million investment, through its Shop Small campaign in the UK, to encourage the nation to shop local and support high street businesses that have struggled during the lockdown.

Through Shop Small, American Express is offering Cardmembers a £5 statement credit when they spend £10 or more in any participating small business across the country from 22 June to 13 September 2020. According to Small Business Recovery research commissioned by American Express, 71% of consumers felt that incentives and offers would encourage them back into local retailers.

The Shop Small campaign also extends to a nationwide advertising push to promote the benefits of shopping small and a recovery pack for store owners to help them welcome customers back safely.

Charlotte Duerden, managing director American Express UK, said: “The vast majority of small high street businesses we asked feel they are ready to reopen and eager to see customers return. However, they also told us that their biggest concern is that they won’t see those customers back in the numbers they need.

“We all want to see a return to our vibrant high streets, which is why we’ve launched our Shop Small campaign now, giving shoppers another reason to visit local businesses and support them as they begin to reopen their doors.”

Artists collaborate to celebrate reopening

To celebrate the reopening of high street shops, American Express has asked a number of leading young, independent artists to create WE’RE OPEN signs for retailers.4 Each has taken the humble sign – something largely taken for granted until March this year – and turned it into a way for shopkeepers to show they are ready to welcome customers once again. Retailers can download the signs from: americanexpress.co.uk/opensigns

London-based contemporary artist Charlotte Posner, who created one of the signs in the vibrant pop-doll style she is known for, comments “Small businesses are at the very heart of our local communities, somewhere that has been so incredibly important during recent times. We haven’t seen OPEN signs for so long and they’ve been sorely missed, so I wanted my work to act as a celebration of the moment that shopkeepers can welcome customers into their stores once again.”

The post-lockdown Shop Small campaign comes in the context of American Express’ on-going support for small businesses through year-round activity, as well as its role as founder and principal supporter of Small Business Saturday. Last year, shoppers spent an estimated £800 million in small businesses across the UK on Small Business Saturday alone.5

Duerden said: “There are a host of challenges facing small retailers, but one of those is letting their customers know that they are back and open for business. We hope that independent retailers can show these striking signs, created by young artists, to help show they’re back and ready to welcome their customers once more.”