‘Busiest day so far’ - Saturday is back as shoppers return to town centre
- Credit: Liz Coates
By all accounts it wasn’t quite a “normal” Saturday, but something very close.
Whether it was the sunshine, Father’s Day, or just a desire to get out of the house Great Yarmouth saw a heartening hike in footfall as people rushed back to the town.
The Book Shop in Victoria Arcade was a hive of activity.
With shelves stacked to the brim and books in teetering piles people were crouched in quiet conversation scanning spines or dashing in for something put aside.
Owner Laurence Holmes said he hadn’t had more than eight people in the shop at a time and had been impressed by the courteous social distancing going on between his customers who didn’t tend to browse on top of each other at the best of times.
Without the holiday makers there were fewer people about but those who were coming in were spending more after months of pent-up book deprivation.
“Everyone has respected all the measures and I have been very pleased with everything.
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“There is some nervousness about the virus but I am hopeful the town centre will recover,” he said.
At the mushy pea stall on Yarmouth Market Jonathan Salmon said it was the busiest day so far, with a lot more people about.
Although not everyone was buying there was a sense that people wanted to meet up, chat, and reconnect in the town centre and were rushing out more to enjoy a stroll and some leisure time as much as anything.
“People feel confident in the market, they are not scared to come out. It all feels ok,” he added.
Meanwhile at The Toy Shop in King Street manager Julian Howard said he felt well-supported by local people.
With children’s birthday parties being off-limits not so many gifts were being bought but model fans had flooded back for specialist paints and materials they had run out of while everything was closed.
“Things have picked up today and a lot of regulars have been in already,” he said.
At the Linen Line in Market Gate Rebecca Hampton was heartened to see shoppers flooding back.
As a homeware shop she had been open for a few weeks but this was the busiest Saturday so far, helped by Father’s Day giving people an extra reason to go out and spend.
“We need people to support this little town, if they want it to survive in any shape or form,” she said.
“We need every penny to have a chance of surviving this.
“Today there is clearly a lot of people about.”
Nearby at Helen’s Handmade Cards, Helen Sharpin, said the first week had been good for her, helped by the Card Factory staying shut.
However both businesses said people were being put off by a lack of toilet provision given that the borough council’s Market Gates toilets were still shut and also thought all the benches should be put back out in the Market Place.
Adam Birch at The Gold and Silver Exchange said he had had some good days since Monday.
Some of his regular customers who had caravans in the area wanted to come back but were hesitant in case nothing was open for them to do.
Reopening attractions, cafes, and holiday parks would make a huge difference because the town missed the tourists, he added.
“After all that has happened I am quite pleased, but it is early days,” he said.
Elsewhere in the town there were queues outside JB Sports and Shoezone in Market Gates.
The allure of the town’s famous market chips also looked to be as strong as ever with lots of people waiting in line.
A one-way system was being largely ignored although people were making the effort to dance round each other and keep 2m away.
Charity shops in the town are still shut along with some national retail chains like New Look, River Island, and Claire’s Accessories.