Aquatic stores across the UK start to close

Many of the nation’s aquatic retail stores have temporarily shut down due to Coronavirus.

The number one driver for the closure is, of course, to protect their staff, customers, their families and themselves from the spread of the disease, but for those who were determined to keep trading, other factors are also at play.

Many aquatic stores trade inside the grounds of garden centres. If the garden centre shuts down, as many have done today, customer access to the aquatic store is also prevented because the car park gates are locked.

And as from today children are also at home due to school closures, and expected to do schoolwork at home. This means that for any retail staff with young families one parent will have to be at home for the foreseeable, to look after them, and leaving the kids with grandparents is not advised for obvious reasons.

Also, the unprecedented measures brought in by the Chancellor at the end of last week means that closure is now possible due to staff being paid 80% of their wages, and most businesses qualifying for a £10,000 payout to aid bill paying in the period that they remain closed.

Most aquatic stores are open seven days a week for a reason – they have to be – as there is little money to be made these days after wages, rent, rates electricity and other bills have been paid.

Also, although closing voluntarily or otherwise, aquatic staff will still need to visit their store on a daily basis to look after the fish, feed and water change etc. Something they won’t be able to do if they themselves become ill with Covid-19.

Fishkeeping News recommends that everyone contact their store or visit their social media pages to check if they are open and trading over the next few days.

Many stores are also now actively encouraging their customers not to visit just for a look, and only to visit if they specifically need to purchase essential items.

Stores may also have social distancing measures in place or stronger, meaning that families and children should stay outside, contactless payments are made instead of cash, and even that the store is telephoned by the customer when outside and goods will be brought out to their car.

These are unprecedented times and aquatic stores will need your support more than ever when customers are allowed to return to them. Some aquatic businesses we fear will not make it through the crisis if the closure becomes enforced, and prolonged.

Some stores are also offering alternative ways to keep shopping including mail order and home delivery, but not every store has that facility and its yet another huge challenge to overcome for the traditional tropical fish shop.

Jeremy Gay

Author of three fishkeeping books and lifelong fishkeeper. Experience includes editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, editor of Pet Product Marketing magazine, multi award- winning livestock manager and aquatic store manager.