The independent London newspaper

Shops in disbelief at instant order to close

Council leader calls for support package for businesses

24 December, 2020 — By Harry Taylor and Tom Foot

Happy Returns in Hampstead

A TOY shop owner has spoken of her “disbelief’ at being told to close down within hours amid the busiest time of the year.

The coronavirus order from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday afternoon saw all non-essential retail in London to close.

Jennie Danso, who has run Happy Returns in Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, since 2006 said: “We couldn’t believe it at all really, no notice. This week is our busiest in the whole year.”

She added: “We had about three or four people who came in afterwards and say ‘Oh my god, I haven’t got anything for the kids’.”

Ms Danso has been taking orders by phone, and she has given up on trying to recoup the lost earnings from the three month lockdown earlier this year.

“I try not to worry about things I can’t control,” she added. “You have to stop planning, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. We were initially told it was three weeks in the spring and then it was a couple of months.”

In West Hampstead, Kim Morris, manager at West End Lane Books, said: “We found out from customers who were phoning us up and telling us about it. Why would we be watching the news on a Saturday afternoon before Christmas? It felt all so last minute.

“It was a really strange atmosphere. The worst thing about it for us was the timing because we had orders of things specifically for people to browse. It all turned up yesterday, but no one can come in to see it now. We have a curated selection on the website but browsing is obviously very important too.”

She added: “But it is what it is. Things must be bad for this to happen. I just wish we had more warning. To do it within 12 hours, it wasn’t very good.”

Customers can still email orders and collect at the door up until 5pm each day, the shop said.

In Camden Town, Nick Collins at the All Ages Records shop. said: “I was pretty speechless to be honest. To close us on the busiest week of the year – which is the week when mail-order is not going to arrive before the magic day – it is unforgivable in my opinion.”

He added: “I have not had any requests to collect on the door. It just seems to me a terrible time and we have much more pain on the way – it’s called Brexit. Is this what sovereignty is all about?”

Mr Johnson said he had no choice but to act because of the emergence of a faster spreading strain of the coronavirus. He also said that plans to relax rules over Christmas had to be abandoned in new Tier 4 areas like London and parts of the south East.

Council leader Georgia Gould said: “I am disappointed that the government has left it so late to act on the rising cases and that so many residents will now have to cancel plans at the last minute. Sadly, the restrictions announced today are necessary to stop the deadly spread of coronavirus in our community.

“Along with other leaders across London, I am now calling for a comprehensive support package to help businesses and residents impacted by lockdown.”

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