‘Much, much busier than predicted’ - verdict on Ipswich town centre reopening
PUBLISHED: 14:08 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 15 June 2020
Sarah Lucy Brown
Thousands of people flooded to Ipswich as non-essential shops opened for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown - with town centre managers saying it was “much, much busier than pundits predicted”.
Shoppers queued along the streets as major retailers such as Primark and H&M opened their doors for the first time in months.
A number of social distancing measures had been put in place to help keep shoppers safe including signage, perspex glass and increased numbers of hand sanitisers.
Before entering the busiest shop, Primark, customers were asked to line up with 2m gaps between them, before using automatic sanitiser dispensers provided by the shop.
One shopper, Joby Haxell, who was queuing to enter Primark, said: “I wasn’t scared at all but I’ve taken precautions and I’ve got my facemask.
“I’m still very aware it is out there. I’m pleased with all of the signs and the stickers which are around. I do feel comfortable at the moment.”
Despite most appearing to enjoy the return to the shops, the number of people in the town centre meant the experience felt riskier for some.
Kayleigh Goodman, who travelled from Needham Market to shop in Ipswich, said if she had known how busy it would become, she would not have made the journey.
“It is impossible to stay 2m away from anyone when it is this busy,” she said.
“The signs and the guidance are great but when it’s as busy as it is today, then they kind of go out of the window.”
While many of the larger brands started trading again, a number of local independent shops also opened to customers.
Antonio Bellini, owner of The Italian Shirt Shop in St Peter’s Street, said: “Now is the time for shoppers to back their local businesses.
“Most of us will do anything to make our businesses survive.
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“I am open seven days a week from 9am to 8pm to appointments to try and get us up and running again.
“There is talk of some people not staying on this road and I really don’t want that to happen. It’s so important.
“What does this town have if it doesn’t have streets and shops like these?
“It’s so much safer to come to these small independent shops as well. I am the only person to have been in this shop for three months.
“I’ve got gloves and have wiped everything down. What could be safer?
“This is the time to support our local businesses.”
Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, the business improvement district (BID) for the town, said: “Today has been much, much busier than pundits predicted.
“Queues at a number of retailers had built up by 8am.
“The work we have done has paid off. The great Ipswich public have voted with their feet and told us that we’ve given them the confidence to come back.”
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