Even though lock-down here in Scotland continues potentially until almost the end of next month at the earliest, meaning all non-essential retail stores remain closed, I’ve found myself back at work this week along with many of my old colleagues. Thanks to ongoing Covid restrictions providing the final nail in the coffin, the department store I work for has now formally gone out of business lock, stock and barrel, so from 1st March we have been taken off furlough in order to pack up and clear the store of stock over the next couple of weeks.
As England is due to re-open non-essential retail at the beginning of April, all stock from the 15 Scottish stores that will now no longer be re-opening after the extended lock-down up here will be re-allocated in bulk to stores in England. And after we have cleared the stores here we will be made redundant immediately. The plan is for the English stores to re-open only to liquidate all residual stock over a 4-6 week period, and then they will be closing too, the end of a business that began over 240 years ago.
So it’s a sad time for all of us and yet there are still things I can find to smile about. We are physically back at work for now, masked and hand-sanitised and socially-distanced as before, and that is giving us the chance to spend time catching up with each other in the workplace when all forms of socialisation with anyone outside of our own immediate household is currently against the law. We find we can chat comfortably amongst ourselves while we work, gossiping and joking and laughing together again, and that feels so good after nine weeks of nothing.
We can once more feel the familiar companionship of being an efficient and effective team working purposefully towards a common goal, and with no customers in our huge still-closed-to-the-public multi-level store we can all spend this precious time tentatively talking through our communal experience of becoming unemployed en masse in the next week or so, discussing potential plans and possibilities and hopes and fears and so feeling less alone in our sadness.
It is a bittersweet farewell, and of course no-one ever wants to face losing their livelihood, but in a time of unprecedented social isolation and loneliness we are at least there in person to experience the store being ritually dismantled in real time, and in doing so we are able to achieve some sense of closure at its disappointing demise. And of course we are also ending our time together as an employee group by building good work-family memories to take with us into the future, and that is something for which I’m sure I will be eternally grateful 🙂