‘The city has come together really nicely’ - Norwich businesses feeling confident about reopening
- Credit: Sophie Wyllie
“People are resilient, we have resilience. We have got to get through this.”
That was the defiant message from one of Norwich’s many businesses preparing to reopen tomorrow as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased.
This newspaper has launched the Love Local campaign to encourage people to spend within our region and give the independent industry a vital boost as businesses across the county reopen their doors following the coronavirus lockdown.
Non-essential businesses from small independents to large high street chains are reopening but they will be radically different with customers expected to stay two metres apart, plastic screens at tills and one-way systems.
Angela Stephenson, manager of The Natural Food Store on Exchange Street, said: “We are doing our best to be flexible. I think the first couple of days will be mad in terms of customers returning. I am fine about reopening. Norwich people are lovely. They have got the right mindset and consideration for us. We are blessed. I am going to keep my staff and customers safe no matter what.
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“Lockdown was the right thing to do but it has not been ideal. It is time to be back.”
The size of the shop means that only one person can be in the business at any one time and two staff will be buddied up meaning its staff won’t mix and match who they work with.
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“I a relying on customers having common sense to do social distancing. People waited beautifully before lockdown so I think they will again,” she added.
Tom Payne, co-owner of Oh So Sweet confectionery store on White Lion Street, which is opening tomorrow, said: “We are excited. I think the public might be nervous at first but once they see we are doing everything we can to be safe I think it will be OK. We can brings a bit of cheer in depressing times.”
Gayle Perry, manager of Natural East clothing and accessories store on Back Of The Inns, said: “We are all feeling positive. People are going to feel so fed up they are going to come into the city.”
To make the shop Covid-19 secure it has closed off its changing rooms and is not selling soft furnishings.
It will also open on Tuesday, June 16 with slightly reduced stock and a one-way system will be introduced with only six people allowed in at any one time.
Adam Betts, manager of Mountain Warehouse on London Street, which sells outdoor clothes and equipment, said: “Everyone is a bit anxious. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t. Right now it is more the case of the protection and welfare of staff and customers. We are not expecting huge footfall in the first two weeks. We are all excited to be back.”
Customers will have to enter and exit the shop in the same way and only 13 customers will be allowed in at any one time.
There will be fewer deliveries per week and any returns or items ordered online will be quarantined for three days before being returned to the shop floor or picked up by a customer.
No clothes can be tried on in store and footwear tried on in the shop will be sprayed and left for one day.
MORE: City shoppers urged to keep to the left as high streets prepares to re-openLee Smith, owner of Norwich Frame Workshop in St Benedicts Street, who reopened on June 1, only allows one person in at a time and handles frames before selling them to his customers.
He said: “Everyone has been really good at social distancing. I don’t expect it to be busy in Norwich on Monday. I don’t expect to be making much money over the next few weeks. If we tread water then that is OK.”
Jonty Young, head or marketing for Norwich Lanes, said: “Quite a few people will reopen on Monday. The businesses I have spoken to are ready. They have done everything they can. They are much more buoyant than they were a few weeks ago. The city has come together really nicely.”
Speaking about how independent businesses in Norwich Lanes will recover from the lockdown, Mr Young added: “It is going to take a long time for the dust to settle.”
MORE: Use them or lose them: It’s never been more important to Love LocalBut he felt smaller businesses were in better position to change practises to ensure safety of customers and staff compared with larger shops and department stores.
“Norwich has gone through riots, two plagues and been bombed and these buildings are still here,” Mr Young added.
Among the larger businesses that will reopen on Monday are 250-year-old Jarrold department store and more than 30 major chains in intu Chapelfield, including Apple, Zara, Beaverbrooks and River Island.
House of Fraser, within intu Chapelfield, reopens on June 16 and John Lewis on Ber Street is due to reopen on Thursday, June 18.
Safety measures at intu Chapelfield feature one-way systems, floor stickers and queues outside stores to ensure visitors stay socially distanced and hand sanitation stands
Matthew Roberts, chief executive of intu, said: “Everyone who visits our centres whether for work or to shop will play their part in keeping themselves and each other safe.”