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‘It’s nice to see people again’: excited shoppers hit the towns

PUBLISHED: 14:07 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:48 15 June 2020

Independent retailers in market towns have already seen success on their first day continuing trading since the coronavirus lockdown began. Photos: Matthew Nixon

Independent retailers in market towns have already seen success on their first day continuing trading since the coronavirus lockdown began. Photos: Matthew Nixon

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Independent retailers in market towns have already seen success on their first day continuing trading since the coronavirus lockdown began.

Customers queue outside the Bungay Factory Shop Photos: Matthew NixonCustomers queue outside the Bungay Factory Shop Photos: Matthew Nixon

Independent retailers in market towns have already seen success on their first day continuing trading since the coronavirus lockdown began.

On Monday, June 15, independent businesses up and down the country were given the green light to open their doors for customers again.

While some business owners had previously said they were worried about whether customers would return following the easing of lockdown, in Beccles and Bungay town centres were packed on Monday morning with avid shoppers who had missed their favourite stores for the last three months.

However, with new pedestrianised zones in Beccles and one-way systems and queues guiding shoppers in both towns, shops and their customers are having to become acquainted with a ‘new normal’.

Bungay Factory Shop assistant manager Vicki Alderman said: Bungay Factory Shop assistant manager Vicki Alderman said: "We've already seen lots of customers." Photos: Matthew Nixon

Sue and Steve Taylor, of Beccles Sewing and Handicraft, said: “It’s not been too bad at all so far. We have done well. Our customers are coming in and saying ‘Ah, you’re open again, you’re here, I can get out of the house and buy fabric!’”

The fabric store has returned to its regular hours, and said it had made its first sale within five minutes of opening at 9am.

READ MORE: What Beccles and Bungay shops are open?

Mr Taylor said: “We were really excited to get people back in. It’s like when we first ever opened the shop.”

Mary Seamons, owner of Wave gift cards added: “I think people can come out with confidence as many shops have put measures in place like our invisible screen. Photos: Matthew NixonMary Seamons, owner of Wave gift cards added: “I think people can come out with confidence as many shops have put measures in place like our invisible screen. Photos: Matthew Nixon

With spray-painted markers for socially distanced queueing, hand sanitiser and plastic screen in store, as well as dozens of homemade facemasks on offer, Mrs Taylor added: “It’s about keeping people safe while reopening.

“But it’s just nice to see people again. There’s quite a bit of movement in the town again with cars back out and people walking. It’s just so nice to see people again.”

In Bungay, queues were seen extending outside many shops, including the Factory Shop, which were very keen to be welcoming back customers.

Assistant manager Vicki Alderman said: “We’ve been shut since March 31, this is the first day open and it’s going very well. We have had good sales, and are urging people to come back - we’ve already seen lots of customers.”

Customers queue outside Cooper's hardware store in Bungay. Photos: Matthew NixonCustomers queue outside Cooper's hardware store in Bungay. Photos: Matthew Nixon

The store has introduced a walkway system in store, alongside a queue with two-metre distancing ensured outside.

Certain items are also being quarantined, such as those returned or shoes which are tried on, to ensure they are disinfected before any purchases are made.

“We want people to know it’s safe to come in,” said Mrs Alderman. “Come along and say hello, and see the great bargains we have on offer.”

On Bungay’s Market Place, Mary Seamons, owner of Wave gift cards, said: “I think people can come out with confidence as many shops have put measures in place, like our invisible screen. It’s a new normal, and the Bungay shopkeepers I have spoken to have put in as many measures in place as possible.”

Sue and Steve Taylor, of Beccles Sewing and Handicraft, said: “It’s not been too bad at all so far. We have done well. Photos: Matthew NixonSue and Steve Taylor, of Beccles Sewing and Handicraft, said: “It’s not been too bad at all so far. We have done well. Photos: Matthew Nixon

Mrs Seamons also said she was “really excited” to be reopening, so much so she had opened half an hour early on Monday, and had already made a sale by 9.30am.

READ MORE: Q+A - complete guide to today’s reopening of shops

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“Lots of people have spent time indoors and now want to get out and do their normal thing. People should support the local shops that are now open. People are now thinking about shopping locally more and where the things they buy originally come from,” she added.

Lee Mason said:  “I’m happy to be open, as you can’t stay closed foreverLee Mason said: “I’m happy to be open, as you can’t stay closed forever". Photos: Matthew Nixon

This sentiment was also shared by Lee Mason, the owner of Beccles Books, who said while there were a number of people passing by his shop, he felt “it isn’t really any more busy than during lockdown”.

He said: “I’m happy to be open, as you can’t stay closed forever. But for me it has been really quiet. I’ve only had four customers so far, and another six by phone. People are very cautious, most are wearing masks, but I want people to know we are back open for business and to come in.”

We are now asking readers to Love Local as they return to their high streets. For years, independent retailers have taken risks and faced the battles of a volatile sector, and they need our support more than ever.


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