Retail and Consumer

Gloucestershire rings in the changes as shopping fever breaks out

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 16 June 2020 8:23

Gloucestershire rings in the changes as shopping fever breaks out

If there were any fears shoppers would hold off a return to their favourite stores the first day of retail re-opening post lockdown went a long way towards wiping that away. 

Whether it was the sun or the simple lure of the excuse to do what the coronavirus pandemic has stopped us doing, thousands came into our town and city centres to explore and do what businesses have been waiting for – spend. 

It caught some who had expected a less enthusiastic return to ‘normal’ - bearing in mind the ongoing concerns - by surprise.

Northgate Street, Gloucester. Queues formed outside TK Maxx to the righ and Sportsdirect.com to the left.

According to Springboard, the retail data and intelligence provider for the retail sector, by 5pm footfall was 38.8 per cent higher than the week before. 

“It was busier than expected. But we have social distancing measures in place and are continually reviewing those to make sure we do our best to keep everyone who comes through Kings Walk is kept safe,” said Peter White, manager of the Kings Walk Shopping Centre, home to Superdrug, Sunway, Iceland, Ann Summers, WH Smith and yesterday’s hit store – fashion house Primark. 

“We worked very hard with Primark to make sure it was Covid secure and because of the layout of the store is was able to work an ‘in one door, out of another door’ system which worked well.”

According to the British Retail Consortium consumer spending had fallen by 26.7 per cent in May compared with the same month a year earlier. The sale of non-essential items fell by 36.9 per cent, with only supermarkets benefitting with a 24.5 per cent rise in spending.

If businesses and those running shopping centres yesterday felt the anxiety around safety and wondered at the resilience of the measures they had put in place for staff and customers they did not show it, and the public generally seemed happy and relaxed.  

In Cirencester it was a well-manner affair as the first day of trading for what were called ‘non-essential shops’ began. 

“We had some great weather Cirencester seems pretty vibrant, a large proportion of retail businesses are now open and looking around the town, a large number of residents have come out to support the towns businesses,” said Adam Vines, who runs website, print and graphic design business Lounge Design. 

And in Tewkesbury it was a similar approach with the town flipping the ‘Closed’ signs around to ‘Open’ to welcome customers encouraged into the riverside town by the sunshine. 

In Cheltenham independent stores likes Neal's Yard Remedies, James of Montpellier and The Paragon Gallery in Montpellier were all ready to welcome shoppers in person for the first time in weeks. 

House of Frazer has social distancing signs and arrows at strategic points within the store to help the flow of customers and ensure safety as everyone wrestled to combine effective social distancing, behaviour fitting of up-standing members of society and the need to shop. 

Kevan Blackadder, director of the town centre business group Cheltenham BID, said the first day had been “very encouraging”, and stressed the measures being taken by businesses. 

“I was very impressed with the measures some of the businesses had put in place in addition to the work done in advance by the BID. This included hand sanitisers outside some stores and PPE for staff in others,” said Mr Blackadder. 

 “It’s important that customers are reassured that the town is safe and that seemed to be the case today.”

Shoppers await their turn in Primark, Cheltenham

As in Gloucester it was Primark in Cheltenham – one of the few businesses which has resisted on-line shopping, demanding customers arrive in person – where the biggest lines formed with people seemingly relaxed and happy to wait as much as 30 minutes before even getting inside. 

Queues quickly formed from TK Maxx on Northgate Street in Gloucester up towards The Cross. It was the same at Sportsdirect.com (despite a 20 per cent off sale online – ending today, if you are interested) with a queue stretching around the corner into the alley alongside The New inn and shoppers waiting calmly in the sunshine. 

On The Cross Gloucester town crier, Alan Myatt – in official red costume, complete with matching, guilt-edged face mask, rang in the changes – while down at Primark on Eastgate Street and off Kings Walk the biggest queues formed.

Town Crier Alan Myatt outside the Robert Raikes public house, Southgate Street, Gloucester.

Across the street in Eastgate Shopping Centre the broad sweep of the centre lent itself well to the need for space, and customers came in numbers. 

“It is great to see retail commencing and see people returning to businesses. Our priority is to make sure we keep people as safe as possible at this stage,” said Jason Robinson, centre manager for Eastgate Street. 

Most town centres are phasing the openings, depending on premises winning the correct covid-secure status to ensure staff and customer safety and supply chains making it all possible. 

As a result of yesterday’s high numbers The Raikes Journal understands some centre managers have already reassessed their staffing levels and social distancing measures and will continue to do so to help reassert the need to ensure safety above all else.