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How Lancs shops are faring after reopening last week

Written by on June 24, 2020

Slowly but surely, Lancashire’s businesses are coming out of hibernation. Last week, shops that were deemed as ‘non-essential’ were given the green light to re-open, following over three months of lost trade.

Despite having to deal with strict social distancing measures, scenes of long queues snaking around town centres showed that consumers were ready to get their wallets out again.

Business owners, big and small, will now be hoping that retail can go back to some form of normality to make up for lost time (and money).

Figures from the Preston BID show that the city centre there had a sharp increase in visitor numbers, with a 107% rise in shoppers from the week before.

Despite that, there was still a reduction in visitor numbers year on year (59% down), however, the BID have said that those people who have returned to the city centre seem to have adapted well to the new measures in place for their safety.

“The BID and city centre businesses are doing as much as possible to ensure appropriate measures are in place in order to offer some element of normality when people feel comfortable to return,” said Mark Whittle, BID manager for Preston.

A generic street view image of Fishergate in Preston city centre

“We’re really pleased that, in the main, visitors are happy to see measures in place and are comfortable following the guidance set out by stores when visiting,” he added.

Over in Blackburn, shopping centre The Mall have been hailing last week as a success, as the centre ‘came back to life after the lockdown’.

The shopping centre reopened on Monday 15th June with a limited number of shops, with more retailers joining the list of those open for business every day.

The centre highlighted Primark, Debenhams and Sports Direct as those that have proven to be ‘very popular’ as shoppers stock up on everything they have missed during the last few months.

A new one-way system and social distancing requirements have been introduced, with customers apparently being ‘happy to wait in queues if necessary’.

Loraine Jones, General Manager at The Mall Blackburn, said: “It has been very emotional watching the centre come back to life – seeing shoppers return and our friends and colleagues working in the stores.

The Mall in Blackburn is reopening more stores

“All the staff have worked extremely hard both in lockdown and during the reopening preparations.

“From delivering additional hygiene procedures to managing queues and answering questions, they have continued to provide a fantastic service with a smile on their faces.

“As we take tentative steps towards a return to normal, we will ensure that this ‘new normal’ is as easy as possible for our valued customers.

“I would like to thank everyone who has visited us this week and we look forward to seeing more people in the coming weeks and months.”

A traffic light system has also been introduced to inform shoppers about centre capacity levels – green status indicates there are no queues, amber indicates that the centre is reaching capacity and red status indicates that the centre is busy and there are queues.

However, footfall at the centre isn’t reported to be at pre-lockdown levels, due to the safety restrictions.

Smaller businesses meanwhile, are hoping that customers don’t forget about them in their rush to hit the shops once again.

Jonathan Dymond, who owns a garment alteration and fabric shop in Blackpool, says he was certainly ready to get back working again.

“It was a relief to be able to open and good to get back to work,” he told us.

“I can’t complain about the government and what they’ve done to help small businesses and things like that.

“But on a personal level, the fact that I could come back to work, I had more structure in my life, getting back to a routine, it was great to come back last week.”

Jonathan, who also teaches sewing classes that have all had to be stopped at the moment, has moved his shop to a system of one customer at a time, which works as it’s a smaller shop, alongside the usual steps of tape being laid out on the floor and signs reminding people about social distancing.

But there is still work to be done when it comes to small businesses recovering from the lockdown.

“Last week I only had around 25% of the customers I would usually have in,” he said.

“I feel positive, I feel like things will improve, but it’s just a case of people knowing that you’re back open as there are still a lot of shops still closed, and it’s going to take time for people to start going out and about as they were doing.

“At the end of the day, the smaller businesses are the high street. The bigger ones seem to cope, it’s the little ones who need people coming back.

“I think the recent announcements by the government were a good move, and I’m just hopeful that things will progress from here on in.”

Now the government has effectively announced the ending of the lockdown on 4th July, retailers, especially smaller businesses, will be hoping that customers will feel confident enough to leave their homes once again and help boost the local economy.