What’s it like at Gapton Hall and Yarmouth town centre as shops reopen?
- Credit: Archant
Great Yarmouth was “busier than expected” as non-essential shops reopened for the first time in almost three months.
By 9am people were waiting in line outside a number of stores - Sports Direct at Gapton Hall seeing hundreds queuing quietly in the sunshine as it offered 50pc off to NHS staff for one day only.
Among them was nurse Angie Crowe, straight from a night shift on the respiratory ward at Gorleston’s James Paget University Hospital.
Working at the sharp end of the Covid-19 crisis meant she had to shower at the hospital before coming home, and she was after some more casual clothes to change into.
She said that during lockdown she had been anxious about shopping but was impressed with the Sports Direct queue, and grateful for the 50pc off being offered to NHS staff.
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Not only was it well managed but the public were playing their part too by adhering to social distancing and waiting patiently.
“I have never seen such a good queue,” she added.
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All shops in England are allowed to reopen from today (June 15), but only with strict safety measures to prevent a second coronavirus spike, while some have been trading all along.
In Yarmouth’s Market Gates shopping centre it meant a one-way system and “roundabout” junction similar to a keep-left road layout.
Centre manager Nick Spencer said at 9am it was busier than usual, with security patrols to enforce social distancing and keep a lid on numbers - capped at 395.
Around 60pc of shops had reopened but some stores like New Look and Claire’s had yet to lift the shutters under a phased reopening.
“You cannot turn up and expect the high street to be back to normal,” he said
First in the queue at JD Sports was Graham Cass from Oulton Broad.
He was keen to buy some new jogging bottoms and didn’t like shopping online.
“Me and technology don’t get on, I like to see what I can get,” he said.
Meanwhile there were three people waiting outside Shoe Zone in the centre.
Among them was Heather Cott from High Road in Gorleston.
A regular customer she was keen to take advantage of the store’s buy-one-get-one-free offer and was desperate for some new shoes.
Inside store manager Karina Jarman, said she was excited to see her regular customers again.
Because of the lockdown she had been unsure of how many would vote with their feet to support the shop on its first day back, but was heartened to see some familiar faces waiting outside.
“I have got a real buzz, the store is looking all fresh and summmery.
“It is quite a nice feeling.”
For the staff it had meant a huge stock change from winter boots to sandals and now there were 7,000 pairs of shoes on the shop floor.
Some workers were worried about the virus risk and there were concern about how many customers would be prepared to travel into town by bus, she added.
Borough council leader Carl Smith was on patrol in the Market Place to check on how things were going.
He said no-one was quite sure how many people would turn out on day one but that the council was on hand to answer any questions or give advice.
By 10am large queues were criss-crossing the main pedestrianised area, particularly around the banks.
Dawn Ablett, from Lowestoft, had an appointment at Specsavers.
She normally shopped in Great Yarmouth around twice a month and was happy to be back.
“I haven’t come to buy,” she said.
“But I would like to pick up two or three birthday cards I haven’t been able to get.
“Yarmouth has lost a lot of character and I think lockdown has added to that.
“But where they had the fire down Regent Road does look really nice now.
“It is a lovely feeling to be a bit more normal.
“One thing that I hope does carry on is that we are all talking to each other a bit more.”
Meanwhile by 10am carparking space was at a premium at Gapton Hall retail park.
A sign on the door at Next said it was reopening on Tuesday (June 16).