Alnwick shops gear up for reopening as retail leader predicts speedy bounce back
Alnwick can bounce back quickly from the effects of lockdown with the support of local shoppers.
That is the view of Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, as many non-essential shops gear up for reopening from June 15,
She has kept in touch with other retailers through a WhatsApp group and reports that shopkeepers are positive about their prospects.
“Everyone is up for it, even if it’s going to be a little bit different,” she said.
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If anything, she hopes the efforts made by the town’s businesses to support the local community during the coronavirus crisis will have a lasting impact on shopping habits.
“The local support for lots of businesses has been phenomenal during lockdown,” said Lisa. “Many have changed the way they operate whether it be by moving online, delivering or click and collect, and lots of people have utilised that.
“They really have been fabulous. I think and hope lockdown may have helped people reassess how they shop and perhaps it will go back to something like it used to be a few years ago.”
She has been impressed with the way food shops and other essential goods retailers have managed to adhere to safety guidelines and sees no reason why other retailers can’t follow suit.
“I think most of the shops that can reopen will do so, with social distancing measures in place,” she said.
“Lots of the smaller shops will be operating a two customers at a time policy. We’ve all seen the queues outside banks and the likes of Boots in the past few weeks and I think that is possibly going to be the future for shopping, at least in the short term.
“We’ve used our group chat to discuss health and safety requirements so everyone knows the rules and regulations. The communication from the government has been extremely clear.
“There will be posters up reminding people of the 2m social distancing rules, guidelines on the floor, hand sanitisers and robust cleaning programmes.”
Lisa, who owns menswear firm Hotspur 1364, added: “There might be some reduced operating hours for some businesses so it will be worth checking before going.
“It will be also be a bit different for clothes shops because they won’t have their fitting rooms open.
“And, of course, we’re still waiting to hear when the likes of hairdressers, beauticians and barbers can reopen.”
She acknowledges it has been a tough period for many traders but the government’s roadmap to recovery has provided a focus for getting ready to reopen.
“The difficulty was not knowing,” said Lisa. “Everyone was holding their breath when Boris (Johnson) made the announcement so when we heard it was June 15 it gave people a few weeks to put their plans in place.
“At some point in the crisis we have to start taking responsibility for our own safety.
“We’re putting in place all the measures we can and we’re quite lucky in Alnwick that you can see into most shops before committing to walk in.
“I would appeal to the public to cut us a bit of slack if something’s not quite right and gently point it out to us because this is all new for us too.”
While visitor numbers might not be at the normal level this summer, Lisa predicts there will still be plenty of day trippers.
“The castle and Alnwick Garden are obviously the two big tourist draws but Alnwick town centre still has a lot to offer visitors,” she said.
“I think we would be foolish to think we’re going to get the same number of tourists as normal but we might even see an increase in day trippers.
“All in all, I think Alnwick has a really good chance to bounce back quickly from all this.”