Mixed fortunes for London shops hit by pandemic

Michael Falkowski is pictured at his bicycle repair shop, ImpressedLondon, in north London. Bike shops have seen a surge in demand during lockdown. (AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Mixed fortunes for London shops hit by pandemic

  • Businesses like bike shops and cafes are enjoying a spike in demand

LONDON: Behind the colorful shopfronts in England’s Lane, a picture-postcard street near north London’s Primrose Hill, business owners are experiencing mixed fortunes as a result of the pandemic lockdown.

While window displays stay empty and shutters are drawn, including at The Washington pub, certain shops are benefitting as customers avoid big queues elsewhere and seek out items that are hard to find at major retailers.

The newsagent and stationery store are enjoying fresh custom from people working remotely and home-schooling their children.

The street’s bike shop has meanwhile struggled to keep up with demand.

“It’s madness right now, everyone is cycling,” Michael Falkowski, co-owner of the Impressed store, tells AFP as he busily fixes a bike.

The Grain bakery has expanded its offering, transforming itself into a mini grocer by replacing tables for customers with shelves.

Owner Kristin Labrague, who has temporarily laid off two of her workers, told AFP that while “it’s a bit frightening to take public transport... we wanted to stay open and feed the community.”

Across the street, the Chamomile cafe has shut.

Irit Reed, who runs the eatery with husband David, says “the decision to close was based on the safety of our staff, our customers.”

Ordinarily the cafe would have people waiting patiently for a table and brunch, but it now has a notice attached to its pale blue exterior with a message asking for help.

“Like many other small businesses and industries who have been required to close, we have been hit pretty hard,” it reads.

“If anyone is able to donate to help us and our team through this next challenging period, we would be eternally grateful.

“In return we will be offering a free hot drink or discount once through this crisis,” the message adds.

Irit speaks of the “shock” she has felt.

“We’ve worked hard all our lives, all of a sudden not being able to work is devastating.”

UK retail sales dived by a record 18.1 percent in April with the country in coronavirus lockdown.

But most shops will soon be allowed to reopen, as Britain — with the world’s second-highest death toll in the coronavirus outbreak — took its biggest step out of lockdown on Monday.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms reopened as businesses seek to lure back customers and recoup losses suffered since Britain effectively shut down on March 23.

In England’s Lane, the Visage hair salon must wait a while longer to reopen, along with pubs, restaurants and gyms throughout Britain.

Without state funding “I don’t know what we would have done,” says co-owner Estella Cicek, referring to government measures to pay workers’ wages and delay payment of taxes during the lockdown.

Irit is meanwhile upbeat about the future.

“The cafe will reopen no question,” she insists.


Apple to launch first online store in India next week

Updated 18 September 2020

Apple to launch first online store in India next week

  • The company at present uses third-party online and offline retailers to sell its products in the country
  • India has become a key focus of tech giants over the last few years

NEW DELHI: Apple announced Friday that it will launch its first online store in India next week, as it seeks to increase sales in one of the world’s fastest-growing smartphone markets.
The company at present uses third-party online and offline retailers to sell its products in the country.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a tweet that the company “can’t wait to connect with our customers and expand support in India.”
The Sept. 23 launch comes ahead of India’s major Hindu festival season beginning next month.
With a nearly 1.4 billion people, including millions of new Internet users every month, India has become a key focus of tech giants over the last few years.
In August, three contract manufacturers for Apple iPhones and South Korea’s Samsung applied for large-scale electronics manufacturing rights in India under a $6.5 billion incentive scheme announced by the government.
Apple assembles some smartphones at Foxconn and Wistron’s plants in two southern Indian states.