DOZENS of shops re-opened in Cirencester town centre this week after almost three months of closure due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Many non-essential retailers have lost income during lockdown, but are at last beginning to trade again, with staff at big chains and small independents returning to work and getting used to a ‘new normal’ of social distancing.
The Corn Hall indoor market and shops were among those to re-open, and manager Augusta Wreay said: “We have used national guidelines as well as the information given to us by the council. It was a busy first day back and was great to see everyone getting back to work.”
Swan Yard has a mix of independent shops, one of which is Decimal, a skate and clothing store. Owner Gaz Parsons was there on Monday preparing for his opening day today. He said he’d seen a surge in online sales during lockdown.
On Monday the main high street was open but many businesses in Black Jack Street remained closed, with independents choosing to open slowly through the week and month.
Crocodile toy store in the Woolmarket re-opened its doors on Tuesday, and owner Mark Mitchell said opening day was quiet as expected.
Mr Mitchell said: “In terms of trade I have low expectations, and I anticipate it will take a long while for people to feel confident about coming out.
“We’re hoping that people will come and enjoy the experience and feel safe – we have gone to a lot of effort to make people feel comfortable but safe.”
The store, which has recently embraced a full change to plastic free, has put queuing barriers outside the front of the store, and there’s sanitiser on the table as well as markings outside for social distancing.
“There’s also an entrance and an exit that doesn’t bring people anywhere near people who are leaving – but once you’re in it’s relaxed and safe,” said Mr Mitchell.
“It only me here – products are quarantined and we spray everything every night.”
As of around 3.30pm on Tuesday, Mr Mitchell said his store had seven customers, and on a normal day before lockdown he would have seen 20 people in the shop.
“What I would say is ‘Please come in, but you can also shop online, you can do click and collect as well’.
“We provide a brilliantly reliable service because we’re small and it means a lot to us. Our products are the cheapest for what we sell.”
Surprises gift shop in Cirencester re-opened on Monday. “Footfall was good,” said owner Penny Hall.
“There were more people around and they were all very cheerful and happy to be shopping, but today, Tuesday, has generally been quieter.”
“I was pleasantly surprised yesterday and therefore slightly disappointed today although we knew it was going to be unpredictable, so we didn’t really know what to expect.”
Social distancing stickers are in place in the shop, as well as screens and a sanitising point.
“Everybody who has come into the store so far has actually been very good and been very aware,” said Mrs Hall.
The shop doesn’t operate online, and Mrs Hall emphasised the importance of support from residents.
She said: “It’s essential we have that support. We can’t provide without local support, it is only local at the moment because often in the summer we do have lots of tourists and we obviously won’t be having that this summer.”
Chamber of Commerce president Annemarie Thurgood, director of Athena Web Designs, launched Cirencester Locals, a virtual marketplace for products and services, during lockdown.
“We really need to help our businesses during times like this so since March the chamber has been producing more regular newsletters with links to the all the available support,” she added.
Meanwhile, Lounge Design, run by chamber vice-president Adam Vines, has produced a guide to help businesses plan for reopening, including a practical checklist.
“It’s imperative that we provide a safe and secure environment for staff and customers alike,” he said.
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