One month after lock-down, we take a sneak peek into our stores across the country…
It is just over a month since we reopened our stores across the UK. During that time, our teams have faced some big adjustments to their working practices and customers have had to change their way of shopping. As all of our shops are situated on high streets in normally bustling market towns, we asked some of our store teams to tell us how they’ve found ‘business-as-usual’ since lock-down:
Alresford (Laura and Sue):
“None of us were prepared for the demand in the first week of opening post-lockdown. I think we were all quite apprehensive that people wouldn’t return to shops but they did – and this was great for everyone’s confidence. We’ve been out on plenty of home-visits too.
Lots of people spent lock-down painting and repairing and are now looking to put the finishing touches to their rooms, so fabrics and accessories are in great demand. Normally we would be entering a quieter phase of the year, as most people go on holiday in July and August – but that hasn’t been the case so far. Fingers crossed this continues for the rest of the Summer! ”
Chichester (Stephanie and Hannah):
“To begin with, it was all a bit overwhelming after being away for so long. As far as socially-distancing guidelines are concerned, people have been very compliant. We are lucky because our shop-floor is enormous and so we can accommodate greater footfall safely. The High Street is still quiet but will pick up as more local activities resume. Overall, it’s good to be back!”
Harrogate (Rachel and Linda):
“Initially, we were taken aback by how busy we were. In so many ways, we were touched by how much confidence our customers had in us and this gave us confidence to make the necessary adjustments. First thing we did was purchase a doorbell. Customers were asked to ring the bell and then we would invite them in one at a time. It has turned out to be an amazingly personal shopping experience – almost like visiting someone at home!”
“Lock-down happened just as we were preparing our grand opening in Knutsford and so we were itching to open our doors in June. We have been overwhelmed by the support locally, both by customers and other retailers. This has been so uplifting. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking opening for the first time but we’ve had loads of home visits already and plenty of visitors too, some from as far as Sheffield and Nottingham. There have been very few problems with the social distancing side of things; people seem to have adapted very quickly to masks. We’re lucky that the shop is spacious enough to make social distancing easy.”
“None of us expected the High Street to bounce back so quickly! You can hardly find a car parking space at the moment, so things are definitely back to normal. The demand for homewares doesn’t seem to be slowing either. We are doing plenty of home visits – albeit keeping to strict social distancing rules. I think we are all happy to be back in a familiar routine and interacting with people again.”
Marlow (Stella and Sandra):
“Life is getting back to normal. Today is the first day of mandatory mask wearing and business has been steady. People are coming in with a purpose, which is great. I think customers are enjoying the freedom of being out and about and shopping for homewares is such a physical experience. Our customers like to be able to see furniture and fabric before they buy. We’re choosing to wear a visor, which is nicer because people can see our faces and they also recognised that we’re doing our bit to keep people safe."
Saffron Walden (Camilla):
“During the first month of lock-down, the phone rang off the hook with our regulars, all needing things for their homes. Many of them hadn’t used our website before and it was great to be able to talk them through the process, as well as advising them on fabrics and soft furnishings. I was still doing a lot of home-visits virtually, via email and phone but it is great to be back and interacting with people face-to-face again, albeit with masks…!”
“It’s so great to be back at work. Salcombe is extremely busy now that summer is here. Most people understand about wearing masks and keeping safe distances; sometimes you get a bit of pushback but in the main, people are really trying and adapting to the new ways of shopping. Most of all, it is great to be back and discussing design ideas with my customers. I love this kind of creative interaction – it’s the best bit about being back at work.”
“It is so lovely to be back! I think most of us are thrilled and relieved to see the High Street revived. The farmers markets are open again on a Friday and a few new shops have opened too. We’ve even had some tourists and day-trippers - people stopping on their way down to the West Country. We were a bit worried about the introduction of masks into shops but I think people are adjusting well to the new ways of shopping.”
Tunbridge Wells (Gemma):
“On the whole, people have been very respectful and kept to social distancing guidelines. Sometimes, it can be tricky to know the etiquette but we are learning as we go. It’s great to be able to deliver a proper service again, although sometimes it can be hard to sell a room-scheme without seeing someone’s face because we rely so much on facial expressions to tell if people like or dislike something! But we’re getting used to it all and most importantly, we are keeping ourselves and our customers safe.
Customer Services Team (Deena):
“I think we were all genuinely amazed by how busy things were during lock-down. The customer services lines were buzzing non-stop. It seemed that people finally had time to think about the improvements they wanted to make at home. But the best part of being at the end of the phone was being able to offer special help to NHS workers – not just doctors
and nurses but support staff across the nation. Many of them sounded so tired and overworked and so it was an absolute privilege to chat to them and offer help in some small way.”