As you will no doubt be aware, the Government recently announced various new guidelines to reduce the lockdown – in particular stating that non-essential shops could re-open from Monday 15th June, subject to assessing and taking steps to manage the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace.
To this end, we have carefully reviewed the new guidance from the Government – in particular the document entitled “Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) in shops and branches” - as well as specific guidance from the Federation of Small Business and the British Toy & Hobby Association.
In addition, we must be very clear that we are closely monitoring the scientific and medical advice, specifically the many warnings regarding re-opening too soon, and the likelihood of a second wave of this pandemic.
We have identified several key challenges to our ability to resume trading as Osiris Games and Proud Lion Comics in the current situation.
Primarily, the small size of either of our retail units will make it difficult to return to anything approximating our normal operations whilst maintaining social distancing. We will almost certainly have to continue to trade out of only one premises, as we did in the last week or so before lockdown. Yet we feel that we cannot create an environment where the general public can safely enter and move around the shop, whilst maintaining a distance of two metres apart - especially as we only have one point of access that can be used to enter and exit the premises, and we are required to limit customer handling of stock.
It will also be challenging if not impractical to have queuing measures outside the shop. Whilst it was possible to facilitate a queue outside 8 St Georges Place during Free Comic Book Day in years gone by, this was a one-off annual occurrence made simpler by virtue of the gated private car park on our left being largely used by office workers, and thus having a reduced need for access on a Saturday during FCBD. Combined with the incredibly narrow pavements on our end of St Georges Place, the public car park entrance, access to Hanna Court opposite, and consideration for neighbouring residents and businesses – we feel that we cannot maintain much of a 2m apart queuing system at this time.
With these key concerns in mind, alongside a myriad of additional challenges to address, we have decided to re-open as a Click & Collect point in the near future. This will be akin to a catalogue shop collection point like Argos for example.
We will be relaunching our webstore as soon as possible, continuing to offer nationwide delivery and are in the process of negotiating for a new shipping contract that should allow us to offer faster dispatch times and hopefully lower postage costs.
Alternatively, you will be able to purchase online (or via emailed invoice) for collection from the premises. We will be implementing an appointment system for collection slots, ensuring that we space out customer interaction for everyone's safety and leaving ample time to clean high-traffic surfaces between customer visits.
Obviously, if you or someone you have been in recent contact with is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, feeling unwell or in a high-risk category, we must insist that you do not use the collection service out of respect for everyone's safety. Please continue to follow the medical guidance regarding self-isolating, and consider having your purchases shipped to you.
We may re-implement the local delivery option we were poised to launch until lockdown nipped that in the bud, but that requires further risk assessments, so will not be an option in the foreseeable future. Whilst restaurants and fast food services have done a commendable job expanding their local delivery capabilities, we feel it contains too much of a risk for our volunteer drivers and our customers at this time.
Our initial opening times for collections will be finalised soon, but we will not be re-opening the week commencing 15th June.
We currently expect to be open Wednesday-Saturday towards the end of June (tbc). Further details regarding all of this will be made available before we re-open.
We will of course have hand sanitiser available for customer use whilst at the premises.
You can expect to see a greatly increased presence on social media as we highlight and promote exciting new releases, hot items tied to anticipated media events and new special offers. It would be immensely helpful if you could like and share as many of these posts as you feel comfortable with, as organic reach on social media is far superior to any sponsored posts (though you can expect to see a few of those too!).
We obviously anticipate no in-store organised play for gaming any time soon, which is particularly heartbreaking, but we are continuing to explore remote play and play-at-home options for the short term.
We want to thank everyone for their understanding and continued support, it means the world to us all. As things have unfolded you have adapted to our changing circumstances alongside the stress and disruption to your own routines – life has become a co-operative game again and you're all superheroes in our eyes.
Our intention is to keep trading, but continue to prioritise everyone's collective health and safety above everything else. Otherwise all of the sacrifices over the past few months will have been in vain. If you can continue to stay at home, we encourage you to do so as hard as that is, and we will happily ship your purchases to you as often as you want! For our part, we will not be bringing anyone back off furlough until we need them or have no choice, and will be looking to work from home where possible for things like our marketing and administrative duties.
If you or any of your friends and family have been directly affected by COVID-19 itself, you have our utmost compassion and sympathy. We hope the continued research by the international medical community and the hard work of the valiant medical care workers can turn the tide for good in due course.
Much love to you all.