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Town Sees Different Approaches to Covid Safety As Shops Open After Lockdown

Published on: 15 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 16 Jun, 2020

by Hugh Coakley

Shoppers coming into Guildford town centre today (Monday, June 15) were dealing with a “new normal” as non-essential shops opened their doors nearly three months after Covid-19 lockdown started on March 23.

Guildford High Street was busy today (June 15, 2020) as shoppers ventured back after lockdown.

Safety and security of customers was being interpreted in different ways by shops. Most were operating a maximum number of shoppers inside their premises. Others, such as Lush in Friary Street, had decided to not allow customers in the shops and to serve them at a table in the entrance.

Lush customers were not allowed in the shop but placed their orders at a table in the entrance of the shop in Friary Street.

An estimated 60% to 70% of shops were open with others, such as House of Fraser in the High Street, said to be opening tomorrow.

TK Maxx, on larger premises, was able to manage 110 customers in its shop in Friary Street.

And the sound of buskers, after a three-month silence in Guildford town centre, brought a smile to many faces.

Busking on the first day non-essential shops reopened in Guildford brought a smile to faces on a sunny Monday.

Social distancing was not difficult to achieve in most outdoor situations in the town but in some streets, such as Swan Lane where the width of the street in some places is less than 2m, people were doing the best they could to maintain the social distance laid down by the government.

Social distancing was difficult in some pedestrian areas such as Swan Lane.

Most open shops had hand-sanitisers ready for customers as they entered the shops. JD Sports staff in North Street said they were using a sanitising spray on shoes after people tried them on and were operating a 72-hour quarantine for goods that were returned.

Guildford Borough Council has placed barriers in the High Street outside some shops in anticipation of queueing.

Staff at the TK Maxx doors were allowing 110 customers into their shop in Friary Street at any one time and were using click counters to monitor the flow of people in and out of the shop. WH Smith had a maximum of 32 and Sainsbury’s had a limit of 30 people, said a staff member.

Some smaller shops had assessed their maximum number of customers as low as two using the guidance issued by the government.

“This is the new normal,” said one shop staff member.

People leaving the High Street with full shopping bags.

One-way systems were signed on many of the roads, such as Chapel Street, and in the shopping centres but it was not always being observed by pedestrians.

An estimated 5% of shoppers were wearing masks with some shops, such as Ben’s Collectors Records, issuing the masks to customers on demand.

Ben Darnton, the owner, said: “It’s difficult to keep the social distancing in the small shops. I am giving out masks and sanitisers. Everyone is being sensible.”

A one-way pedestrian system was being encouraged in White Lion Walk.

Predictions that there would be bargains to be had in the high street did not appear to be borne out as, contrary to the near-constant sales in the preceding year, there were few sales signs in the shops.

John Redpath, (R4GV), lead councillor for Economy for Guildford Borough, said that he was pleasantly surprised by the turnout on the first day after lockdown.

He said: “This is a dive into the unknown for all of us and work will be ongoing with council officers and the town rangers monitoring the situation. It’s good to see the town centre open for business again.”

The pavement on the upper High Street was widened to allow more space for pedestrians and less space for vehicles. Will this be a permanent feature?

Pete Lambert, town safety and venue liaison manager for Experience Guildford, said: “The weekend is going to be the telling point when more shops will be open. We will take each day as it comes.

“Guildford has a friendly atmosphere. People are being respectful.”

Mark Goss, owner of Moffats, the outdoor and fashion retailer in North Street, said: “When we closed in March, we took great care in what we ordered so we weren’t carrying too much stock. That gives us flexibility against the big chains.

Mark Goss of Moffats said that he had sold more face-coverings in two months than he had in the past three years.

“We have now got some great new brands in such as Rip Curl and the Buff neck tubes which many use as face coverings.”

And, putting some perspective on the coronavirus pandemic, Bombay Buzz owner, Raj Sachdeva, said: “We have learned that nothing should be taken for granted. It has taught us a lesson that we should always be prepared.”

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