Murky weather on what is traditionally the quietest day of the week for many made it a gentle reintroduction – but shopkeepers were still in good spirits and delighted to be back.
“It’s absolutely marvellous,” said Lisa Aynsley of menswear shop Hotspur 1364. “I’m not going to fib, it’s a day I wondered if we’d ever see but we’re back, the doors are open and we’ve already been really busy. The support from the locals is phenomenal.”
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Lisa, who is also chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “One of the things that lockdown has shown people is what their high street will look like if we don’t get the support – empty shops, boarded up pubs and restaurants and queuing on the street for essential goods. That’s the reality of the future if people don’t go out and support local businesses.
“I want to reassure everyone that we are all working so hard. Risk assessments have been done, there are robust cleaning programmes in place and we’ve got strict social distancing policies. You will be safe if you shop in Alnwick.”
Julie Avery, who has run Kiddies Kabin on Market Place for 40 years, agreed: “It’s great to be back.
“We’ve got to hope for the best with this new normal.
“We don’t really know what’s going to happen but we’ve got to think positive.
“Everyone I’ve met so far has been really nice, really kind and we have brilliant great customers come in here and they’ll be fine.”
Dawn McMullen, who has owned The Wool Shop for 26 years, admitted: “I was a bit nervous but I think everything is as safe as I can possibly make it.
“We’ve got a one-way system, in one door and out the other, hand sanitiser and customers have to go to the counter and my staff will get it for them.”
At the other end of the scale, 16-year-old artist Matt Robson was also pleased to be able to reopen the Narrowgate business he launched last year.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “Obviously I don’t think it’s going to be back to normal for a while but hopefully people will get out and about supporting local businesses.”
Mandy Fletcher, who works at mini-department store Robinson’s, said: “It’s been non-stop with people coming in and out but they’ve been keeping their distance and being really sensible.”
Fiona Nelson-van Loon, owner of Ruby Tuesday, said: “It’s brilliant to open the door again although I was a little bit nervous. I’m just really looking forward to seeing everyone again and getting Alnwick working and trading again.
“I think it will be a learning curve,” she predicted of the coming weeks. “There will be changes but I think people will get used to a new normal, perhaps by having to be a little more patient and using hand sanitiser but I do believe strongly that we have got good community support and I do think people will try and shop local as much as they can.”
Across the road, Gavin Penn of Penn Gallery, said: “It will take some time to get back to normal but once the sunny weather gets here and the visitors are back it’ll be fine.
“Every shop opening up again is important for the town.”
Judy Wong, who runs The Origami Cafe, also admitted first day nerves.
“It’s very different to normal,” she said. “I’m not able to serve in and out at the moment but I’m hoping the takeaway is going to pick up. We’ve still got cakes, milkshakes and coffees to take out.
Judy, who is hoping to get the all clear to put out tables and chairs for customers, added: “If the weather picks up then we should be able to make up for all the trade we’ve missed out on over the last few months.”
Anna Morton, deputy manager at Dorothy Perkins where there is a one-way system in place, said: “It’s been going really well, all positive. We’ve been very busy and nice to have our regular customers back.
“They told us that they’d missed us which has been nice to hear.”
Dave Scott, who owns Scotts of Alnwick, is operating reduced opening hours from 10am to 1pm to begin with.
“I’m expecting it to be slow to start with but as consumer confidence comes back and people get into the habit of going to the shops again it’ll pick up again, especially when the tourists start coming back.
“I feel safe to be back,” he added. “There are a lot of good independent retailers here and they are keen to protect their customers and ensure they are safe.”
Mike Shepherd, greeting customers as they arrive at Barter Books, said it had been a ‘steady start’ at the renowned secondhand bookstore.
“We’re asking people to social distance and everyone has been doing that,” he said. “I think people have got quite used to the idea over the last few weeks and that’s what seems to be happening.”