Non-essential retailers in Chesterfield town centre have returned to their shops and stores and re-opened with coronavirus-related safety measures in place after 13 weeks of closure.
The implementation of safety measures mean that some retailers are now promising shoppers a ‘celebrity’ shopping experience.
Laura Jo Owen, owner of Adorn Jewellers based in The Shambles said: “We’ve been chatting to our customers via social media throughout lockdown so that has helped us understand how they want to shop with us. They don’t want to queue and wait around to get into the shop which is why we’ve introduced an appointment only system to Adorn.”
“Whether purchasing or not, we want people to not feel pressured and have the shop to themselves – a celebrity shopping experience! We’re more than happy for customers just to browse and have a catch up with us – we’ve missed them.”
Ashgate Hospicecare has installed Perspex screens on the tills in its shops and also removed and condensed displays to enable people to observe the two-metre distancing rule.
Eighty-five per cent of the shops and stores in Vicar Lane Shopping Centre have re-opened with the remainder set to follow over the next few weeks.
Sarah Bowler, Office Administrator and Commercialisation Co-Ordinator at Vicar Lane Shopping Centre, explained: “All of the retailers at Vicar Lane have been working very hard to implement measures that make it as safe as possible for everyone. As well as social distancing measures, some stores are providing hand-sanitising stations, or are offering appointment-only shopping. Additionally, some are operating reduced opening hours.”
Ashgate Hospicecare is undertaking a phased re-opening of its shops and donation centres over a three-week period. “The shops and donation centre will be re-opened over a three-week period, starting with our donation point and furniture store in Hasland,” added Laura Evans, Head of Retail Operations at Ashgate Hospicecare.
Sarah added: “We have provided details of every store’s safety measures and opening times on the Vicar Lane website to help visitors feel confident about visiting us. We’re reviewing government guidelines on a daily basis and ensuring that we are able to adapt quickly.”
Vicar Lane Shopping Centre
Supporting retailers and visitors, Chesterfield Borough Council has implemented social distancing measures throughout the town centre, market and Market Hall.
There is now visible signage around the town centre advising shoppers where to queue outside individual shops. There are also signs in areas such as car parks and green spaces reminding people to follow social distancing guidelines keeping two metres apart from anyone outside of their household, and not to congregate in groups.
Councillor Kate Sarvent, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for town centres and visitor economy, said: “The safety of those who live, work and shop in Chesterfield town centre remains the council’s number one priority and we have been working closely with local retailers and market traders to make sure we can maintain safe social distancing within the town centre.”
“If you are worried about anything or have any questions, our town centre ambassadors will be on hand to help you.”
Retailers have praised the measures Chesterfield Borough Council has put in place around the town centre. “The council has also really considered the flow of people around The Shambles so we’re confident that social distancing is fully in place for every visitor,” said Laura-Jo.
Adorn Jewellers of Chesterfield
The safety measures have also given entrepreneurs confidence to set up a town centre business.
Prior to lockdown, Natalia Marcheta, owner of mobile Prosecco bar, Salute, was due to set up a pop-up bar in Vicar Lane and plans remain in place for later in the year. She said: “Having seen the social distancing measures the council has put in place in the town centre, it has given us confidence to go-ahead with the venture in-line with the government guidelines of when hospitality businesses are allowed to re-open, as we know that our staff and customers will be safe.”
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), is urging the public to “play their part” in making shopping safer. It says customers should follow five steps:
- Queue considerately
- Maintain social distancing
- Follow instructions inside and outside shops
- Follow all necessary hygiene measures
- Be respectful to shop staff
Lockdown has hit many businesses and charities on the high street hard. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), retailers saw clothing and footwear purchases fall by two thirds.
Laura Evans explained: “The temporary closure of our shops has had a significant impact on the charity. Twenty-nine per cent of Ashgate Hospicecare’s income comes from its retail operations so we’re delighted to be able to re-open the shops.”
Ashgate Hospicecare’s Hasland Store
Vicar Lane praised the Government support for retailers during lockdown. Sarah Bowler “We’re delighted that all the existing retailers in Vicar Lane are re-opening after Lockdown, and we’ve also got a new bridal shop opening called Precious Memories by Anne-Marie. The Government help has been very welcome during this period and retailers are very thankful for the Rates Relief for this year – it is a huge weight off their shoulders.”
Despite the forced closure of non-essential retailers, many of Chesterfield’s retailers believe lockdown has been good for the health of the high street. Many town centre businesses are positive about their future following the success of the Shop Local message which has been championed by Destination Chesterfield, Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Borough Council throughout lockdown.
Launched in April by Destination Chesterfield, the Supporting Local website has helped Chesterfield’s independent businesses and service providers continue to operate and supply their services and products during lockdown.
Dom Stevens, Manager of Destination Chesterfield explained: “The resilience that local businesses and service providers have shown during lockdown has been remarkable. Plans are in place by Destination Chesterfield to continue to promote the Shop Local message beyond lockdown and support retailers in their recovery and help them thrive as part of the town centre.”
Laura-Jo Owen said: “I think lockdown has helped people realise the shops and stores they have on their doorstep so I am expecting new customers who discovered us on social media over the last 12 weeks, to also visit the shop. We’re so happy to re-open and welcome back old and new customers to Adorn.”
Lisa Swift, owner of Shop Indie agreed, saying: “We believe that after the lockdown has ended and people are allowed to move freely that they will have a much better appreciation of local businesses they have been reliant on during lockdown.”
Despite the challenging circumstances, Chesterfield’s retailers and the council are united in their enthusiasm to re-open and welcome back customers.
Councillor Kate Sarvent said: “It’s great to see so many people back in the town centre as we look to restart our local economy. We know that many of you will have spent the last three months shopping online, but now is your chance to come back to the town centre, indulge in some retail therapy and support Chesterfield businesses by shopping local.
“The town centre has so much to offer. From national retailers to small independent stores and of course our outdoor market and Market Hall, there really is something for everyone.
“You’ll have the opportunity to browse and buy some of those nice to have items that you simply haven’t been able to get. Father’s Day is just around the corner too, so it’s the perfect chance for you to support our local retailers when you’re out looking for a gift.”
Click here for the Destination Chesterfield Father’s Day Gift Guide
Laura Evans, of Ashgate Hospicecare, added: “One thing that hasn’t changed in all our shops however, is the warm and friendly welcome. We can’t wait to welcome staff, volunteers and customers back.”
Sarah Bowler from Vicar Lane Shopping Centre agreed, saying: “We’re all very excited to be re-opening and welcoming everyone and getting back to the new ‘normal’.”
For shoppers who are still shielding, the website – www.chesterfield.co.uk/supportinglocal has details of nearly 100 shops, food and drink businesses, training, support and service providers in and around Chesterfield that have adapted to provide and supply their products and services remotely.