‘We’re not the police’: Shops will not turn away customers without a mask
PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:31 24 July 2020
Business owners and managers have insisted they will not do the government’s leg work following the news that from today customers will have to wear face coverings in shops.
The government has been criticised for a changing stance on where coverings will have to be worn, previously stating it will only be in shops but now adding takeaways and coffee shops.
And shops have put their foot down when it comes to enforcing the rules with the majority of stores in Norfolk saying they would not turn away customers who arrived without a mask.
A survey carried out by this newspaper saw more than seventy responses when asked if businesses would turn away customers not wearing face coverings, if they would provide masks, and if customers were already wearing them.
The vast majority of shops – 60pc – reported that customers were already wearing them.
More than half of the businesses – 52pc – questioned also had masks either on sale or to hand out to customers.
However they were left divided over whether or not they would turn away vital footfall should customers arrive without a face covering.
The majority – 70pc – agreed that they would remind individuals of the government guidance but would not be enforcing the rules.
At Bookbugs and Dragontales, in Norwich’s city centre, owners Leanne and Dan Fridd have been blown away by the positive response to PPE.
They said: “Our policy on masks will be one of gentle persuasion. We are not the police and won’t be refusing entry or antagonising already stressed customers.
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“We have been incredibly lucky with the response our customers have had to our measures – 95pc have put on gloves no questions.”
They added the only problems they have had is individuals taking masks from the Timberhill site then leaving immediately.
Further down the street at independent fashion retailer Ginger, owner Beckie Kingsley confirmed that the majority of customers were already wearing face coverings, and they have masks for sale for those who were not covered up.
The same was true for Attleborough’s Aldridge Crafts and at Myhill’s Norwich’s in Exchange Street.
In Dereham at Shampooches, Emma’s Boutique and Knit Wits the stores have taken a different approach and instead of handing out masks were asking customers to use hand sanitiser upon entry.
However the prime minister’s approach was criticised by Great Yarmouth’s Dallas Parker.
The manager of the Dead Good clothing stores said he “will not be policing” the wearing of masks.
“Honestly, it all seems a bit late to me. What’s the point of making them compulsory now instead of June 15, when non-essential retail was allowed to re-open? People are already wearing masks if they want to regardless of whether or not it’s compulsory,” he said.
“But we won’t be turning away anyone who isn’t wearing one. That’s too much to ask for small independent shops who have really struggled because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Likewise, for Adam Birch from the Gold and Silver Exchange, he “will not be calling 999” if he sees someone without a mask in his store.
He said: “It doesn’t really instil confidence does it – the idea that you have to wear masks in shops in order to be safe from the virus?”
Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of Norwich-based Centre for Retail Research, said: “I believe wearing face masks will deter some shoppers. The problem is that the people who remain worried about getting the virus won’t be going out anyway – and now the people that are may not want to because of the discomfort.
“On the other hand if we went into local lockdown we’d all be very upset that we weren’t told to wear the masks, and that would have a really bad impact on footfall. Overall I believe it is the right decision to bring this in – though I am concerned how long for. Retailers will be looking ahead and wondering whether face coverings will still be enforced by Christmas.”
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