Queues outside Sports Direct and Debenhams as non-essential shops reopen in Bury St Edmunds
- Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI
A type of normality returned to Bury St Edmunds today as many non-essential shops reopened - but the shopping experience was very different to before.
For shoppers coming back to the town centre after months away, key changes are the signs and floor markers reminding people to keep a distance of two metres and safety measures in stores like hand sanitizer and clear barriers between the cashier and shopper at the till.
During the coronavirus lockdown essential shops like food stores have been open, but today was the first day clothes retailers and others could trade from their premises.
The old part of the town appeared quiet - with many shops not open until at least 10am - until you reached Sports Direct, which had a queue the length of the Buttermarket as NHS workers turned out for the 50% reduction specifically for them.
Ambulance driver Nigel Salmons, from Bury, queued before opening at 9am and came away with a £169 shop for £84.
He said: “They are quite strict about social distancing [in the store]. There are arrows on the floor.”
MORE: WATCH: What does Bury St Edmunds town centre look like ahead of reopening?Emergency medical technician Abi Holden who was queuing with her husband Matt said it was their “first clothes shopping trip out”.
“It’s my daughter’s birthday in a couple of weeks and she’s quite sporty and likes football so we’ve come to get her a couple of birthday presents,” she said.
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Those near the entrance waiting to go in had been queuing for about an hour.
Shops opening today in Abbeygate Street included Javelin, Parsley Pot, Quest, Jigsaw and White Stuff and in the Buttermarket JD Sports was one of those ready for customers.
Independent shopping street St John’s Street had quite a range of retailers open today such as Hughes, Sunrise, Odyssey, The Handmade Shop & Gallery, Dance Crazy, Aubyn Davies and the Bury Sewing and Knitting shop.
Adrian Green, manager of the Pro Cook shop in St John’s Street, said: “We are fortunate. We have got a big space. We got it all prepped up at the weekend and we have regular cleaning rotas.”
He said Monday was usually quite quiet anyway, while traditionally Saturday is a good trading day.
He added: “Bury is quite a unique place. We are not an Ipswich, we are not a Cambridge, and we are very visitor orientated.”
At the modern Arc shopping centre, shoppers had been queuing outside Debenhams before opening at 10am and Clarks also had people waiting outside as families could finally purchase the correct size shoes for their growing children.
Debenhams store manager Chris Ward said shoppers had been looking at casual wear, women’s wear and lingerie, essentially products they haven’t been able to go out and buy while the shops have been shut.
“We are really excited to see people back,” he said.
Ellie Pimbley, marketing manager at the Arc, said: “People are being so respectful and we can’t thank them enough. They are following our guidance on the floor, they are sanitizing as they enter the shopping centre and they really are walking apart so we are very proud of all our shoppers today.”
MORE: How shopping in Bury St Edmunds will be different after lockdownAlso open at the Arc included Topshop, Superdry, FatFace, Pandora, Blacks, Clarks, Hotel Chocolat, H&M, Peacocks and Waterstone’s.
For shoppers in need of refreshment there were plenty of options for takeout coffee, from independent cafes like Wright’s and Really Rather Good to the likes of Starbucks and Cafe Nero.
Following confusion over whether charging had returned to Ram Meadow car park this morning, West Suffolk Council reassured people they would not be fined for not displaying a ticket in any of their car parks if a driver parked before the machines were switched on.
“We have been switching back on the machines today,” they said.