Stafford shops are open for business again – and traders are glad to be back


Shoppers have flocked back to Stafford town centre to browse stores that have been closed for almost three months – with some waiting two hours to get into one premises offering a special discount for NHS workers.

The bustle of Market Square, Greengate Street and Gaolgate Street made the County Town look almost like its normal self on Monday when non-essential shops were allowed to re-open for business.

 But shoppers wearing face masks, signs on lampposts advising visitors to practice social distancing and queues outside some retail outlets were a reminder of the measures still being taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus.


Large chain stores and small independent retailers alike were offering hand sanitiser to help staff and customers stay safe, while many counters now have see-through protective screens up and signs requesting contactless card payments.

A number of shops in Mill Street, just off Greengate Street, were open for business and welcoming back customers.

Sharon Holyoake, of lingerie store Chantilly, said: “It’s very strange. I’ve had some of my regular customers in, which is nice, but it’s a different way of working. We’re open 10am to 2pm but the salon won’t be open until July 4.”

Anthony Sedgwck, of Blacks, said: “We’re one of the oldest menswear stores – we have been going since 1825 and we’ve been through all sorts of things since then. We survived the Spanish flu (during 1918-19) but we have never had to close for anything until now.


“We’re expecting it to be slow to start with – it will be a while before it is back to the level it was before this. But we are here and we are open and we have had some regular customers that have been in touch which is nice.”

In nearby St Mary’s Mews Sheran Tucker of Magic by Candlelight said: “It feels strange to be back – it’s like your first day back at school. It will take a few weeks before it gets back to normal but it’s nice to be back.”


The Soup Kitchen in Church Lane may still be unable to welcome back indoor diners for now but it is offering a takeaway and delivery service – and lending out colourful blankets to customers who want to enjoy a socially distanced picnic in the nearby churchyard.

Duncan Sandy, who runs the eaterie, said: “We have been back open for the takeout service for a week now and we’re offering bacon baps, oatcakes, scones and takeaway afternoon teas.

“It’s been great to re-open as we had to furlough everyone. People are starting to come back so it should start to improve. We have got to give it a go – and we have got to get our town centre back.”

While lengthy queues were reported outside Primark stores across the country there was no line outside Stafford’s branch on Monday lunchtime.

But there were plenty of cheerful shoppers milling around the Riverside centre with Primark bags.

Luke Jones, who travelled from Hednesford with Charlotte Jones and Shelly Jones, said: “It’s been a pleasant experience and safer than usual. It’s nice that it’s not so crowded.”


Shelly said: “I’ve been in lockdown since March so it’s good to get out. There was no queue – we were straight in and the staff have been pleasant. There is hand sanitiser as well which is great.”

Shoppers queuing to get into the nearby JD Sports branch included Jackie and Sophie Lees from Cannock. Jackie, who was looking forward to seeing what Sketchers shoes were on sale, said: “We’re glad to be here – I’ve been really bored at home.”

The largest queue was on the other side of the town centre, where shoppers patiently waited to get into Sports Direct in Gaolgate Street. The queue curved round the corner into Stafford Street, but there was music to listen to coming from the Hogarth’s branch a few doors down from Sports Direct.


The sunshine was also a bonus for those waiting, including Alexa, Charlie and Rob Flitter from Stafford.


Alexa, one of the NHS workers offered a 50% discount for the day by the retail giant, said: “We have been here two hours and it’s really busy, but I was expecting that. It hasn’t been too bad and the music from Hogarth’s has been good.

“Charlie’s going to sixth form in September so we’re looking to get him kitted out.”

Other town centre visitors on Monday included Stafford Borough Council leader Patrick Farrington.

He said: “It’s amazing to see so many people in the high street and I’m pleased to see quite a number of shops open that I didn’t expect to be open.

“It’s good to see people have taken on board that message of having to stay safe but wanting to reopen their businesses.”

Shops were not the only town centre buildings re-opening on Monday however.

St Mary’s Church was also welcoming back volunteers and worshippers for private prayer after several weeks of closure. Services have been continuing online though for congregation members to follow in their own homes.

Visitors will now find a one-way system to follow inside the church as well as taped off pews and markers reminding them about social distancing.


Reverend Richard Grigson, Rector of Stafford, said: “It is the first time we have been able to reopen the church. We have already had some people in for private prayer and we are going to be advertising that more widely after today.

“The one-way system keeps it safe for the volunteers who are welcoming visitors too. This week we are going to be open Monday to Friday 11am to 2pm and next week we hope to open St Chad’s Church as well.”





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