Charity chain confirms two of its stores will shut permanently after lockdown
- Credit: Archant
A Norfolk charity is preparing for a phased reopening of its shops - but says two have not survived the coronavirus shutdown.
East Coast Hospice has some 15 shops stretching from Caister to Southwold and Holt to Lowestoft that were forced to close because of Covid-19 in March.
Charity chairman Jennifer Beesley said preparations were under way to open up most of them, probably two at a time.
She said she had taken the tactical decision to extend the closure beyond June 15, when the government says non-essential shops can open with self-distancing and safety measures, to avoid being deluged with donations it then has to pay to get rid of.
She revealed two poorly performing stores in Beccles and Watton would not be reopening.
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Mrs Beesley said a lot of work had been going on behind the scenes to get the remaining stores ready, with PPE already sourced and obtained.
Switching winter stock for the summer season - and back again in September - would be a big job, with everything having to be taken off the rails, folded, and stashed away while summer stock would have to be sorted and pressed ready for sale.
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Meanwhile with so many of the volunteers being in vulnerable groups, all shops would have to operate with fewer hands on deck.
She envisaged a phased reopening of two shops at a time, with the first hour from 9am being closed to the public to allow for sorting.
In small shops like Acle it would probably be a one-in, one-out scenario, with perhaps two allowed in Caister.
Risk assessments had been carried out at each store, she said, and PPE and screens had already been obtained to help keep staff and customers safe.
East Coast Hospice aims to open Margaret Chadd House a palliative care hospice on a 7.5 acre plot between Gorleston and Hopton.
The ambitious bid for a new 10-bed to care for the dying was launched in 2007.
ECH has bought 7.5 acres of land at Sidegate Road on the Norfolk/Suffolk border for the facility, carried out ground work, and secured planning permission in perpetuity - which means it does not ever expire.
It has also opened 15 charity shops across the region to help raise the cash.
Mrs Beesley hailed the contribution of staff and volunteers who were “worth their weight in gold.”
She said the shops would begin to reopen in July.
At Sue Ryder a phased reopening is also planned.
The charity has some 500 shops across the UK and at least ten in Norfolk and Suffolk.
A spokesman said: “Sue Ryder plans to open a small number of shops in June with additional safety measures in place to protect our staff, volunteers and customers.
“The charity will look to open more shops during July and August, if it is confident that this can be done safely.”
Norfolk-based children’s charity Break is preparing to open nine of its shops on June 15 and has put in a range of “Covid-proof” measures.
Lesley Leigh, Break’s retail business manager said: “We’ve made a lot of changes to how our shops will operate to create a safe donation and shopping experience and are really excited to be welcoming back our loyal supporters.”
“We are hoping the reopening will prove to be a fantastic success and create a springboard to re-open the rest of our shops across the region.”
The shops Break will be opening on June 15 include Church Street in Attleborough, Cromer Road, North Walsham Road and Unthank Road in Norwich, Victoria Road in Taverham, Station Road in Sheringham, Market Place in Swaffham and Ashburnham Way, Carlton Colville.
Shoppers will find more open retail floors with screens and payment zones. There will be no changing rooms available and donations will be quarantined for seven days minimum and only accepted in the first and last hour of the shopping day.
Hand sanitiser will be available and the shops will close at lunchtime for cleaning.