Thousands queue outside stores as non-essential retail reopens in England

15 June 2020, 10:09

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Huge queues have formed at stores across England as thousands of non-essential shops pulled up their shutters for the first time since March.

Long lines were seen at Primark stores across the country, with dozens of keen shoppers waiting outside branches of the budget clothes store in Birmingham, Derby, Liverpool and Nottingham.

In Birmingham, there were more than 20 people waiting outside the store before 6am.

Primark’s Liverpool store was forced to open its door earlier than planned today due to the huge crowds waiting outside.

Non-essential stores across England have been closed since Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the country into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All shops in England are allowed to open, although retailers have had to introduce strict safety measures.

On Oxford Street, shoppers were told to use hand sanitiser as they walked into the Primark store.

Dispensers have been stationed at the shop’s entrance, with a sign advising shoppers about the steps taken to ensure ‘the wellbeing of our colleagues and customers’.

Some customers could be seen wearing face masks and gloves as they browsed, while staff members at some shops, such as Fenwicks in Newcastle, were given visors to work in.

Staff at Fenwicks in Newcastle were given visors to wear
Staff at Fenwicks in Newcastle were given visors to wear. Picture: PA
Next staff were also given protective equipment
Next staff were also given protective equipment. Picture: PA
Primark stores were issued with hand sanitiser
Primark stores were issued with hand sanitiser. Picture: PA

"It's been three months on lockdown" and said her children had "shredded their clothes," she told LBC News she just needed essentials.

On the size of queues outside Primark at the Intu Centre in Essex, one eager customer said: "Oh my goodness, " adding "it is unbelievable".

Associated British Foods plc, of which Primark is a subsidiary, said: “Social distancing protocols, hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high frequency touch points in the store are among the measures we are implementing.”

“These measures are designed to safeguard the health and wellbeing of everyone in store and to instil confidence in the store environment.”

Elsewhere in London, large queues formed outside Selfridges and customers cheered as they entered the building, which has been closed for three months.

Huge queues gathered outside some shops ahead of them reopening
Huge queues gathered outside some shops ahead of them reopening. Picture: PA
Customers cheered as they walked through the Selfridges doors
Customers cheered as they walked through the Selfridges doors. Picture: PA
Customers were told to keep to a two metre social distance
Customers were told to keep to a two metre social distance. Picture: PA
In Bristol, people queued from opening time to go into Sports Direct
In Bristol, people queued from opening time to go into Sports Direct. Picture: PA

In Manchester, huge queues could be seen outside stores including TK Maxx and Foot Locker.

In Bristol, queues formed outside many of the shops inCabot Circus, including Sport Direct.

Customers are being encouraged to go out and spend but to "be sensible" in their approach, as the Government seeks to begin reopening the economy "gradually and carefully".

Small businesses across the country also reopened today, with one independent boutique in Essex saying she is 'excited' to reopen today.

However, she said it is by no means the end of her worries about the business collapsing.

Nikki Collier from Bini Babies in Halstead said the 10 K grant from the government during lockdown has gone towards the shop rent, her own wage to survive financially herself and stock for next winter

She says she’s going to lose a lot of income once she reopens tomorrow due to social distancing guidelines, which mean only two people will fit inside her shop at any one time.

Non-essential shops in England have reopened their doors to customers on Monday for the first time since the lockdown was imposed in March.

Speaking during a visit to the Westfield shopping centre in east London to highlight the re-openings, Mr Johnson said people should be able to "shop with confidence" as they returned to the high street.

With official figures showing the economy shrank by a fifth in April, ministers are desperate to get economic activity going again amid warnings of further large scale job losses to come.

Ministers are under intense pressure from Conservative MPs who see the easing of the two-metre rule as crucial to the next phase of the reopening, including pubs and restaurants, slated for early July.

Mr Johnson said they were constantly looking at the evidence to see when it would be safe to do so.

"As we get the numbers down, so it becomes one in a thousand, one in 1600, maybe fewer, your chances of being, two metres, one metre or even a foot away from somebody who has the virus are obviously going down statistically, so you start to build some more margin for manoeuvre and we'll be looking at that," he said.