Furloughed staff back and customers through the door – how Doncaster shops are re-opening today

This was the scene in Doncaster this week as shoppers headed back into Doncaster town centre for the first time since lockdown started three months ago.
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Queues at Primark extended all the way round from the front of the store, to Church Way, behind it, with visitors warned they could be waiting 50 minutes for their retail fix.

It came as local shops across Donaster were able to re-open again – and this week we are launching a campaign to support those local stores.

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We are launching our Support Local campaign, encouraging people to use the local shops that are trading again.

Chris Hughes outside his Hughes'd antiques shop which he has re-opened todayChris Hughes outside his Hughes'd antiques shop which he has re-opened today
Chris Hughes outside his Hughes'd antiques shop which he has re-opened today

Shopkeepers have this week told us how important it is that people bring their custom back as Doncaster firms get back to business – and we are backing them.

Those who had returned to shop this week welcomed the loosening of the restrictions that had shut down stores since March.

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Emma Standish, from Dunscroft, said she had come into town to get her summer clothes in.

Michael Ball outside Hub, on Bowers Fold, DoncasterMichael Ball outside Hub, on Bowers Fold, Doncaster
Michael Ball outside Hub, on Bowers Fold, Doncaster

“It’s been fantastic to be back,” she said. “It feels back to normal after being trapped in a cage for a long time. I’ve bought some sandals. I’m not surprised by the queues though. It’s like we’ve just come out of winter.”

Also pleased to be back was Rafal Bera, aged 44, from Lakeside, out shopping with wife Agniszka. “We’re glad to be able to shop again,” he said. “We’re hoping things are back to nomal and think we feel safe.”

Joanne Corner aged 34, from Wheatley, made the trip into the town centre with her son, her sister and her nephew. She said she was making her first trip back into town since lockdown.

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She said: “It just feels good to be doing something that is back to normal. We knew there would be queues, but it is just great to see people out and about and not in lockdown. We’ve bought some things for Fathers Day.”

Joanne Corner and familyJoanne Corner and family
Joanne Corner and family

Amudu Brigith, aged 19, from Bentley, was queueing to get into Primark with a face mask around her collar. She said she was going to use it inside the shop. She was also out for the first time in the town centre since lockdown. “I just wanted to get out,” she said.

Becky Everitt, aged 21, of Woodlands said: “I’ve missed shopping, I’ve missed going out to buy things. I feel confident to come out shopping but not as often as I usually would.”

The council had put signs on the streets urging people to stay on the left of the street. But many people seemed happy to wander in the middle of the pedestrianised area around St Sepulchre Gate, which was the busiest part of town. The occasional bicycle also came through the pedestrian area.

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Most shops appeared to be open in that area, as they did near the market.

Charlotte Clark has re-opened Pawnbroker Gold at Market Place, DoncasterCharlotte Clark has re-opened Pawnbroker Gold at Market Place, Doncaster
Charlotte Clark has re-opened Pawnbroker Gold at Market Place, Doncaster

Charlotte Clark had fully opened Pawnbroker Gold, on Market Place for the first time. It had been partially open as it offered some financial services.

But today her staff who had been furloughed were back at work again for the first time.

She said: “We’ve got social distancing in place, weve got hand sanitiser, and we’ve got screens up. Before today we have had people in for loans, and been busy online. But now people are coming in again.”

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Round the corner at Hub, on Bowers Fold, a small shop selling collectables and film merchandise, owner Michael Ball had put in place lines 2m apart on the floor and introduced a one way system. He admitted he had to remember to use it. He has also installed a screen at the till, and set a limit of four people in the shop at a time.

He has had a shop for 26 years, in its present site for 19 of those.

He has been able to keep the business ticking over with internet sales for what he describes as a niche market. He was pleased to re-open his store after so long.

Emma StandishEmma Standish
Emma Standish

“It was a bit odd to be honest after being shut for so long,” he said. “Just switching on the lights and opening the door felt strange after all that time.

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“I hope things will swing back to how they were,” he said. “I think it’s important that people get the message that we’re open.”

Next door, Chris Hughes runs his Hughes’d antiques shop. He has brought in masks and hand sanitiser ahead of re-opening, and put up social distancing signs.

He does not do internet sales.

“I’m a bit excited this morning,” he admitted. “It’s like starting school again.”

“But it is huge to be opening again. We have to get people back into town again, and as long as people are sensible, I don’t think there will be a problem.”

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“I’ve been on a rate relief grant, and that has paid the bills. But we need people to come back into town again. It’s been three months without wages for businesses like this.”

On Wood Street, Kerry Gough was delighted to have her first order taken in her shop for three months.

She is only letting two customers in at any one time, although she has been in the premises hereself, putting bouquets together on the basis of online orders. Some have been for funerals. Others have been from people wanting to let loved ones know that they missed them.

“We’ve not had too many people in the shop yet,” she said. “But it’s only the first day, and we did have an order in the shop. “We’re opening fewer hours for the first week. But it is important for people to come in and I think we just want people to shop locally and support independent businesses.”

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Phil Elvin, a few doors down, runs Punch menswear. Wih no online sales, he says it is vital for him that shoppers return to the town centre.

“We will be having two people in as a maximum at a time, and then running one in one out,” he said. “We can do that quite easily as an independent.

“We’ve done some sales of home deliveries of shorts and that sort of thing. But I have taken a Government business grant, and a bounceback loan in case I need it. I am worried, but we don’t know what’s going to happen.

“I think my message to people is come out to shop, but make sure you show some common sense. If the Prime Minister says you can shop with confidence, I would like to say that you can shop with confidence. I would urge people to support their local businesses. It was already tough before coronavirus.”

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Keith Winter, who runs The Bed Shop, on Hall Gate has been able to open already, but hopes the extra shops that are opening will make for more shoppers.

He said: “My message is come into the shops, and trust us – we are making shopping as safe as possible.”

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