Yorkshire shopping centres and fashion shops prepare to reopen with safety a major concern

Marks & Spencer's summer collections showcased in March at a virtual press show.Marks & Spencer's summer collections showcased in March at a virtual press show.
Marks & Spencer's summer collections showcased in March at a virtual press show.
From shopping centres and major department stores such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer to small local independent shops and charity shops, these are some of Yorkshire’s fashion retailers getting ready to reopen their doors. Stephanie Smith reports.

The Government has given the green light for fashion shops and other non-essential retail stores to reopen from June 15, a date anticipated by many Yorkshire retailers with a mixture of relief, excitement and trepidation.

On Monday Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “From 15 June, we intend to allow all other non-essential stores, ranging from department stores to small independent shops, to reopen.”

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However, he added that the move is “contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus” and retailers will have to adhere to new safety guidelines to protect shoppers and workers.

Mother of Pearl x John Lewis Tencel shirt, £99 at John Lewis.Mother of Pearl x John Lewis Tencel shirt, £99 at John Lewis.
Mother of Pearl x John Lewis Tencel shirt, £99 at John Lewis. | Other 3rd Party

John Lewis has said it will reopen its stores on a “phased basis”, staggering to test in-store changes required by the Government’s social distancing measures. A spokesperson said: “We have been preparing to reopen our John Lewis stores, informed by what we have learnt from the social distancing measures the Partnership has taken in Waitrose. Our plan sees us open our shops on a phased basis, to enable us to test the changes we are introducing and ensure the best and safest customer and Partner experience.”

John Lewis’s plans include: The introduction of a “Customer Service Host” to welcome, manage queues and explain changes; reduced number of entrances; caps on the number of customers entering stores; prominent social distancing signage; protective screens at checkouts and areas of the shop where two-metre social distancing cannot be achieved between customers and Partners; control procedures for escalators and lifts limiting the number of users; rigorous and frequent cleaning; provision of hand sanitiser for customers at all entrances; social distancing in back of house areas; new contactless payment limit of £45; reduced availability of customer services - for example, close-contact beauty services will not be offered and customer catering outlets and fitting rooms will remain closed; safe and simple returns process separating returned stock from new or old stock for 72 hours.

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Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said: “We are working towards re-opening more space from June in line with the Government’s guidelines. We’ve been successfully operating social distancing in our stores for some time and we will take our learning from this as we reopen our clothing business. Our 260 stores that sell both clothing and food are led by a single manager – so it means they already have a brilliant working knowledge of the necessary hygiene measures, how to manage social distancing and the flow of our customers in and out of their store.”

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Marks & Spencer collections as shown at its virtual spring press show.Marks & Spencer collections as shown at its virtual spring press show.
Marks & Spencer collections as shown at its virtual spring press show.

At Meadowhall Shopping Centre near Sheffield, it is expected that car parks could close at peak times, if required. The number of people allowed into the centre might also be limited, with doors closed where necessary and a ‘keep left’ system implemented throughout. Stores will operate a ‘green-red indicator’ system to notify customers when they are letting people in.

At Fox Valley, near Sheffield, Sandersons Department store has confirmed that it is now making plans to reopen on June 15. River Island is one of the national fashion stores this far to confirm that it will also reopen on that date.

Some retailers have expressed disappointment that the reopening date has been delayed from an original guidance suggesting that stores could begin reopening from June 1. Outdoor markets will still be able to open from this date.

Paul Stocks, owner of Keith James Menswear in Horsforth, near Leeds, said: “I have tried to remain positive whilst we have been closed and was all geared up to open the shop on the first of June, so it was disappointing to find out we must wait a further two weeks.

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A row of shirts at Keith James Menswear in Horsforth, which plans to reopen in June.A row of shirts at Keith James Menswear in Horsforth, which plans to reopen in June.
A row of shirts at Keith James Menswear in Horsforth, which plans to reopen in June. | Other 3rd Party

“Initially we are going to allocate one day a week for personal shopping by appointment, then have shorter opening hours on the other days. We will operate a Covid Safe Environment, with a sanitising point, screens around the till point, regular cleaning of surfaces and social distancing measures in place. Personally I think the smaller independent stores will seem more appealing places to shop and look forward to welcoming customers back, however realising it may not be the same for quite some time.”

In Harrogate, Jillian Welch of bespoke special occasion shop Jillian Welch Design, said: “It’s with a mixture of excitement, joy and trepidation that I shall be reopening the shop. The lockdown has been a challenge for us, as for all small businesses, but at the same time it has provided a period of quiet reflection for me as a designer. I think I am coming back renewed, with a fresh enthusiasm and, of course, a lot of new ideas.

“I am looking forward to the creative chaos of my usual life, but I will be putting a lot of thought into how best I can make the shop as safe as possible for us all.

“I have had a lot of lovely messages from clients, who are keen to finish up projects as well as many looking to book or rebook weddings, when dates can be finalised. With all this, as well as the ready to wear racks, I am expecting the pace to build up again quite quickly, but think I should have a bit of time to create some new samples and ready to wear items. Let me at it!”

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Wearing a pink dupion silk dress by Jilllan Welch design in Harrogate, Sharon Cameron earlier this year with Carol Flather in blue chantilly lace. Both silks from James Hare Leeds.Wearing a pink dupion silk dress by Jilllan Welch design in Harrogate, Sharon Cameron earlier this year with Carol Flather in blue chantilly lace. Both silks from James Hare Leeds.
Wearing a pink dupion silk dress by Jilllan Welch design in Harrogate, Sharon Cameron earlier this year with Carol Flather in blue chantilly lace. Both silks from James Hare Leeds. | Other 3rd Party

Also in Harrogate, Sara Shaw, owner of pre-loved designer womenswear shop Violet Store, said: “We are looking forward to opening the shop in June and understand that there will be some nervousness from our customers. We are taking steps to ensure the safety of shoppers and we know that this will mean the way we are able to engage will be different. We will continue to offer the same levels of professionalism and care but it will be adapted to these new circumstances and we will continually assess and change as we go along - we may not get it right straight away. The priority will be customer and staff confidence in our practices.

“I think the way we shop has changed forever and the next few months and years are going to be a challenge for retailers and town centres but we must listen to what our customers want and embrace the changes ahead, there will be new opportunities and ways of working and we need to be open to that. It’s not going to be easy but I do think there is a cautious appetite for our customers to come out shopping again.”

In the Yorkshire Dales, Edward Sexton of countrywear brand Glencroft said: “We’re planning on opening our little warehouse factory shop as soon as we’re allowed to - looks like mid June at the moment. And I believe quite a few of the shops we supply in Yorkshire are too.”

In Barnsley, Rita Britton confirmed that her shop, Nomad Atelier, will also reopen on June 15.

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Most of Yorkshire’s major shopping centres, including The Springs Shopping Centre Leeds, have yet to make an official announcement about their plans, although some of their stores including Boots and some food outlets have been open under distancing measures. At Trinity Leeds, in line with Government guidance, essential shops have remained open, including Marks & Spencer Food Hall, Tesco, Wilko, Vision Express for essential and Urgent Eye Care Appointment only and Holland & Barrett.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Pre-loved designer items at Violet Store in Harrogate, which will be reopening in June.Pre-loved designer items at Violet Store in Harrogate, which will be reopening in June.
Pre-loved designer items at Violet Store in Harrogate, which will be reopening in June.

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