Bosses of Stoke-on-Trent’s biggest shopping centre have unveiled the full list of rules staff and customers will need to abide by as it prepares to fully reopen within weeks.
Hanley’s intu Potteries has outlined how it plans to keep employees and punters safe after the Government announced all shops can reopen on June 15.
However, ministers were keen to stress the date could change if reductions in coronavirus infections fail to meet expectations.
The comprehensive guide covers everything from new social distancing and hygiene procedures to supporting stores.
It was developed by taskforce of experts from across cash-strapped intu which runs 14 shopping malls across the country.
The new guidelines are:
- Placing limits on the number of cars allowed into the centre at a time with some parking bays shut;
- Restricting the number of people in the centre;
- Introducing a one-way system with floor stickers;
- Setting up queuing zones outside individual shops;
- Extra staff training to ensure visitors stay socially distanced;
- Enhanced hygiene regimes with more deep cleaning of key areas and touchpoints like escalators, toilets and keypads;
- Keeping hand sanitation stands at entrances and other locations which were first brought in at the start of the pandemic to allow shoppers to visit pharmacies and other essential services;
- Issuing personal protective equipment (PPE) to all employees.
Matthew Roberts, chief executive of intu, said: “intu is the biggest landlord for most of our brand customers so we have been working to help them plan the reopening of their stores as soon and as safely as they can.
“Experts from across intu have formed a specialist taskforce who have considered everything we need to run intu Potteries and our others centres as safely as possible, with a series of central, common principles for the portfolio and individual plans for each centre.
“This includes working with our brand customers and providing them with all the support they need to reopen safely, as well as new social distancing and hygiene procedures to keep everyone who visits or works in our centres safe.
“We have introduced enhanced cleaning regimes and hand sanitation stands throughout every centre, measures to limit the number of visitors and ensure they stay socially distanced once inside, and given our staff the protective equipment they need to stay safe.
“We know we cannot do this alone and everyone who visits our centres whether for work or to shop will play their part in keeping themselves and each other safe by following the official guidelines, and the instructions and safety information provided by our teams.
“Our teams have been working incredibly hard to keep our centres clean and safe during the lockdown and we are hugely grateful to them, and we would also like to thank our brand customers and visitors for all their cooperation and patience so far.”
Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove said shoppers would need to ‘exercise restraint’ by not trying on clothing and testing goods ahead of purchase.
He told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “It’s also the case that we need to ensure that some of the shopping habits people may have grown used to in the pre-Covid days are habits that we exercise a degree of restraint on.
“So when it comes to touching and testing goods, when it comes to trying on clothing, when it comes to trying make-up and so on, that all of us exercise restraint in not doing that and recognising that as these stores reopen, it is a new normal, but it will allow us to ensure there are a wider range of goods and will also ensure the economy can return to a new normal, that is absolutely vital for people’s jobs.”
However, not all StokeonTrentLive readers are convinced by the plans.
Slowly but surely, some eateries across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire have been re-opening – albeit with new social distancing guidelines firmly in place.
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Sharon Bradbury said: “How on earth will this work? I can’t pick anything up to look at? No fitting rooms, understandable, but what about refunds? I don’t get this at all, it’s going to ruin the high street.”
Donna Owen said she would prefer to stick to online shopping.
She added: “I don’t fancy going in public areas. When the shops open properly it’s going be loud and busy and it’s got germs written all over it.”
And Paula Halligan added: “It’s going to be a nightmare. It’s uch a shame for the smaller shops. It’s going be the final nail in the coffin I’m afraid.”