Town centres reopen after lockdown

Town centres and high streets across the county have reopened following the easing of government restrictions.

One-way systems, hand sanitiser stations and safety ambassadors will be common sites as non-essential shops begin trading again, but under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mall in Blackburn will operate its normal trading hours, but not all shops and eateries will be open with immediate effect.

Blackburn BID has also launched a new mobile app ‘Experience Blackburn’ – which will form part of their recovery and transformational marketing campaign to support Blackburn town centre businesses through the pandemic and post-coronavirus. It is now available on both Android and via the Apple store.

Councillor Phil Riley, executive member for growth and development at the local council, said: “It’s good news for our town centres that we are able to reopen businesses. I know the teams at the markets have been working hard to make the changes needed to make sure shopping will be as safe as possible, but we will need the help of our customers too."

South Ribble Borough Council has asked the public to walk and cycle where possible, and to use face coverings when travelling on public transport. Longer queues and busy car parks are expected.

Without a vaccine, many shoppers will still remain cautious

Councillor Paul Foster, leader of the council, said: "We have been helping businesses in South Ribble to prepare to reopen. Customer safety must be the priority – and social distancing should be adhered to at all times.

“Frequent hand washing, and wearing a face covering, are both very much advised at this stage. Nevertheless, whilst we must stay safe and stay alert, this is also an opportunity for the South Ribble economy to bounce back.

“The recovery won’t happen overnight – but I know that many businesses owners are just happy to be open again."

Preston City Council has announced a number of temporary changes to traffic in the city centre and around Fishergate to help people maintain social distancing, and prioritise walking and cycling due to continued restrictions on public transport.

In the initial few weeks there will be a heightened cleaning regime, safety messages, support for businesses and a range of other practical actions including increased planting to improve people's experience of visiting the centre.

Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston City Council said: "The success of the high street and city centre as a whole is of utmost importance to us, but so is the health of our residents – whether they are consumers, employees or business owners. We are working very hard to achieve a careful balance of supporting the local economy while maintaining the lowest possible risk to everyone.

"We are looking forward to welcoming visitors safely back into the city, but ask that everyone takes personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others by following government guidance. There are new ways we can be courteous to others, such as limiting the spread of germs by not picking up things we are not going to buy, giving everyone space and keeping our hands as clean as possible.

“Everyone has a part to play and the council is proud to serve our residents by doing everything we are able to make a visit to the city centre as safe and enjoyable as possible.”

Sue Richardson, head of retail for KPMG in the North, said that shopper numbers are predicted to remain lower than usual levels for now.

She said: "Store re-openings are likely to be a gradual affair, with the safety of workers and consumers placed front of mind. Some stores may not even reopen at all, as retailers reassess which sites are most commercially viable for them to continue operating. We’ll also likely see a flurry of retail casualties in the coming weeks and months too, especially with quarterly rent on commercial property due on June 24th.

“In the context of store re-openings, we have to remember that customer footfall plays a key role in determining the success of stores, and without the added traffic from workers popping in during their lunchbreak, or consumers socialising nearby, customer numbers are likely to remain low in the short- to medium-term.

"Without a vaccine, many shoppers will still remain cautious, continuing to log-on rather than hit the high street. What’s more, the experience they once sought isn’t likely to be the same currently, with obvious issues around trying items on for size or controlling crowd numbers, for example."

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