How Doncaster's shops are preparing to re-open on April 12 after three months of lockdown
After more than three months of closure due to Government restrictions, the bosses at Doncaster town centre’s legion of independent shops are itching to get back to business.
Next week is expected to see shops re-open again for the first time since January saw the nation return to lockdown.
And as they prepare to put out the ‘open’ sign, owners are predicting bargains, new stock and a busy first week – but say they need other businesses like bars and cafés open too.
Carl Bradley runs the Bradley Knipe menswear shop, on High Street.
He is excited about getting to re-open again for the first time since the lockdown at the start of January, and is ready to go.
He said: “If they said we could open tomorrow, we’d be ready tomorrow.
"It has been about getting new stock in and merchandising, and while the shop’s been empty we’ve been doing a bit of DIY here and got it in the best shape it could be. We’ve had stock coming in.
"I’m hoping it’s going to be really busy but I’m not building up too many hopes. I think I’m expecting a busy first week, and then it may settle down after that.
"From our perspective I think things will be better when everything is open. One of the reasons for people buying clothing is for going out and for going on their holidays."
He thought it was important that shoppers come down and support local businesses when they do re-open, because if they were not used, they would close.
He believes the re-opening of pubs, cafes and restaurants is also important for the shops, as they give the public more to do in their visits to the town centre, so that they could make a day of it and get a bite to eat and drink as well.
"I think people will be pent up from not being able to do anything for so long,” he said. “We just want to be able to get back and start earning ourselves a living again.”
He said he thought it was unlikely they would stay open late, as he was not sure that there would be extra trade from doing so, although he would see what other shops were doing.
Round the corner, Sarah Scott runs Tiffany, a ladies’ boutique on Cleveland Street.
She said they would be making a special case in opening on Monday.
She said: “We are usually closed on a Monday, but because we feel this Monday is so important, we will be opening on this one.
"We will be ready, and we’re really excited – myself and the staff are itching to get back.
"I’m in the process of taking stock to the shop, and it’s going to look really fresh with new spring stock. There is a lot to do.
"But we are really excited and don’t see any negatives at the moment. We’re following the rules to make sure everything is safe."
She is hoping people will be going out to use the pubs that are re-opening, and dressing up. She is also hoping the restart of weddings will help business, and is going to open an appointments only section of the shop upstairs for familes to get their wedding gear.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel. It may be slow, but customers have been asking if we’re opening.”
Sarah Jones, who runs Gregory’s leather goods store in the Frenchgate Centre predicted there would be bargains, as some shops sold off seasonal stock that had not been sold due to lockdown.
"We’ll certainly be having a sale, as we have stock that needs to be moved, so I think shoppers coming to the town centre may be able to get some great bargains.
"I don’t see there being any problems, and I think it will be just nice to see our customers again. We have plenty of stock, and we will also have new seasonal stock in. Some of what we sell doesn’t date though, like leather bags.
"I hope that there are enough customers coming out to keep us going. But I’ve got a good feeling and I’m staying positive.
"The Government has said we can open longer hours, but I’m not sure if we are going to yet. I think we will see how it goes and how busy we are.
"I think there will be people thinking about independent retailers more than ever, and I think they realise that if they don’t use us, then we won’t be here.
“They can just ring us if they want to check what we’ve got in – that's how we can keep in touch with customers.”
Andy Stancliffe, whose Lakeside Furniture Direct shop is on Waterdale, said he would be opening up on April 12, but had no idea how it would go.
He said: “My concern is that so many people have started shopping online now, and it’s not just the younger people.
"But we’re going to give it a go. If it doesn’t work, we could close.
"We’ve got stock in but some things have gone out of date. We may have to throw away some things because they’re seasonal, and we have lost so long.”
He said they had a tough period during the lockdown, and had experienced broken windows.
At one point, the windows were whitewashed, and he said he was keen that people knew that he was still open.
He said it was important that begging in the town centre was kept under control to encourage people to come in to shop,
But he believes shops still have much to offer.
"We can give customer service you don’t get online,” he said.