Wigan businesses make small steps on the retail road to recovery

The shutters are coming up and new stock is being put on display as businesses across the borough get ready to open their doors to customers once more.
Stallholder Dherminder Singh back at work on Wigan's outdoor marketStallholder Dherminder Singh back at work on Wigan's outdoor market
Stallholder Dherminder Singh back at work on Wigan's outdoor market

The tills at shops, restaurants and most other businesses stopped ringing in March when Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the lockdown is starting to ease and traders are getting ready to open.

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Already some shops have opened their doors, with pie lovers delighted that bakery Galloway’s is serving customers at several branches.

Burger King at Robin Park opened its drive-through on Monday and is also taking orders for delivery.

Wigan’s outdoor market also opened on Monday, though markets in Leigh and Ashton remain shut as council bosses say social distancing could not be easily maintained there.

The Government has unveiled a full list of retailers that can open from June 15 under new guidelines, with fashion stores, betting shops and charity stores all allowed to welcome back customers.

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That was welcome news for John Sanson, manager of the Grand Arcade, who was already making preparations ahead of a provisional June 1 re-opening, as previously announced by the Prime Minister.

Mr Sanson said: “We are already partway through marking out the floor in 2m distance queueing systems, keeping apart lifts and escalators, and things like that. We thought we had to be doing that for June 1.

“For June 15, that gives us a little more time to get things in place, but obviously all the individual retailers have to have their own social distancing and queueing systems within each individual unit.

“We are talking to them and I think what we will find is not all the retailers will suddenly spark up on June 1. With fashion businesses, when they closed up in March it was winter/spring stock in there and when it re-opens it will be summer/autumn stuff because there are no summer holidays.

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“Even with the decision for June 15, I think a lot of the retailers will keep staff on furlough, bringing them back on or near June 15 and maybe re-opening later that week or the week after. They have to clean the unit, put up their signage and put social distancing in place.”

The Grand Arcade will have one-way systems in place for shoppers, as well as markings to help people keep their distance from each other and hand sanitiser will be available.

Since the lockdown was imposed, the toilets have been closed and the benches and children’s rides have been removed.

Five businesses have reopened open throughout the lockdown as they were classed as “essential”.

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Mr Sanson thinks people may be wary of visiting shops at first, after only being able to leave home for a few select purposes, but he hopes they will return.

Businesses in the Grand Arcade are not the only ones getting ready to reopen in Wigan.

Jeweller Beaverbrooks has revealed there will be protective perspex screens at consultation points, designated team members for shoppers, fewer selling zones and reduced numbers allowed into stores when it reopens on June 15, but customers will be permitted to try on jewellery.

There will be floor markings and physical boundaries to ensure safe social distancing for customers and staff, daily temperature checks for team members and hand sanitiser stations at the entrance and throughout the store which will be mandatory for shoppers to use before entering.

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Gallimore’s restaurant, on The Wiend, is going to open for takeaway meals only, serving dishes from Fridays to Sundays. Papa Luigi’s, on Wigan Lane, will also open for takeaways from June 4, following the success of the same service at their Euxton restaurant.

On March 23, the Government said only retailers deemed “essential” - which included supermarkets and grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, hardware stores, petrol stations, vets and pet stores, food markets and bike shops - could remain open.

Restaurants, pubs and cafes were all forced to shut their doors to customers as part of the lockdown, but remained able to serve takeaway food to customers in line with social distancing measures and deliver takeaways.

Some businesses, including garden centres, have recently been allowed to re-open, with more now allowed to trade from June 15.

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They include: fashion shops; charity shops; betting shops and arcades; tailors, dress fitters and fashion designers; car dealerships; auction houses; antique stores; retail art galleries; photography studios; gift shops and retail spaces in theatres, museums, libraries, heritage sites and tourism sites; mobile phone stores; indoor and outdoor markets; and craft fairs.

Before reopening, bosses must consider who is essential to be on the premises, plan for the minimum number of people needed on site and keep across the mental and physical well-being of staff.

Ministers have stressed the date could change if reductions in coronavirus infections fail to meet expectations.

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