Perspex screens go up in Snappy Snaps

The Chiswick Calendar talks to John Fitzgerald about the shop’s Coronavirus refit

At the beginning of the lockdown period people embarked on all sorts of ambitious projects – decorating, learning a language, developing their cooking skills – but not apparently going through their photographs.

I’d have thought that Snappy Snaps, who offer an online printing service, would be rushed off their feet with photography projects, but no. In normal times they’d have maybe 20 jobs per day through the website; now they’re down to two a day, if that.

“I think it’s difficult to concentrate on big projects” says John Fitzgerald, franchise owner of Snappy Snaps Chiswick. He himself feels like that and I’ve heard other people say the same. We’re anxious about the Coronavirus and what will happen, and it’s hard to settle on anything that requires too much sustained focus.

Snappy Snaps’ staff are all on furlough. Usually the shop, run by John and his brother in law Anthony Gallogly, is buzzing, with people queuing for attention, whether it’s to get prints done or pictures framed, a passport photo or a baby portrait. Looking ahead to the time when they will be permitted to open again, John has been thinking about how they can offer the best customer service they can while keeping staff and customers safe.

“It’s not possible to be two metres away from another person in our shop” he says. “I’m not sure it works in any shop really”. Whereas people are prepared to queue for food and medicines, he’s not sure they will for non-essentials, so he’s been been using this period of enforced inactivity to redesign the shop to accommodate as many customers as they can.

They’ve packed away the stock and ripped out the old bank of computers along the left hand wall. Instead they’re installing four perspex kiosks which abut the serving counter, like the old sound booths in record shops in the 1960s, so customers can use the computers, facing the serving counter, shielded from fellow customers on either side. John and his staff will be shielded from customers by a perspex screen all along the counter, but they will be able to see their customers’ photos on computers mirroring those in the kiosks, on the staff side of the counter.

“Our changes to the shop will make it a safer environment for customers and our colleagues while maintaining the personal service we always strive for” says John.

How will you be able to hear people? I ask “You can be sure Anthony won’t have any trouble making himself heard” he says, with a laugh. The perspex, though effective against bodily fluids, is thin enough for customers and staff to be able to hear each other.

Online framing consultations

Framing consultations will also be conducted through a perspex barrier. The framing counter is staying in the same place, on the right hand side of the shop as you go in. Customers can look at the options for mounts and frames as they can now, just not be able to touch them. The shop will continue to offer passport photographs but John doesn’t imagine there will be much appetite for the portrait photography they offer in the shop’s basement studio.

John is under no illusion that trade will spring back up to the level it was before the shops were forced to close. “Some people will go straight out to the pub and to shops and restaurants as soon as they can, but there will be others who will be more cautious, and some who won’t want to go out and do anything unnecessary at all”. When the shops reopen, he’s expecting trade to be between 50% and 70% what it was before the lockdown started.

“We are working on a new app which will allow people to have a framing consultation at home through a streaming camera, if they don’t want to come into the shop” he tells me. Snappy Snaps has had to stop all framing for the time being because they can’t get the supplies, but they hope to be able to try out the new app soon, and when it’s up and running they will also offer a free home delivery service. They we will be setting up a booking system for consultations on complicated projects.

“We should have some of the changes ready for end of next week” he tells me. “We will be ready for re-opening of the high street whenever it is announced”.

“We are committed to making this new normal as normal as possible while still ensuring a safe working environment”.

Meanwhile they are offering their usual service of printing and delivering gloss prints, and a selection of photogifts, canvases and posters through the website.