Retail businesses across the north-east are getting ready to open their doors on Monday as Covid-19 restrictions are eased further.
Non-essential shops are permitted to welcome customers back, while bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants can partially reopen.
Among those looking forward to opening on Monday is Joanne Minty, store manager at New Look in Aberdeen’s Bon Accord shopping centre.
The retail sector in the city has been hit by setbacks in recent weeks, following the high-profile closures of Debenhams and John Lewis among others.
But Joanne and her team insist there is no substitute for the in-person shopping experience, and they are determined to prove Monday’s reopening is good news for the high street.
“We absolutely can’t wait to welcome our customers back,” she said.
“We are still on the high street, which we are all so grateful for.
“We just want to see our customers again and reassure them that we are still here, even though so many other retailers are not, which is such a shame. It’s made us even more grateful that we are opening.
“Obviously we want our partners in crime to be open too which they are sadly not. It’s just the way of the world, with things going online and people having busier lives – not to mention the downturn Covid has caused for businesses.
“It’s that overall experience which customers can really look forward to. Unfortunately, our fitting rooms are still going to be closed under the government guidelines but customers will still be able to see the product. It’s tangible, whereas you can’t really see it online.
“We need to get the economy back up and running again and we need to get back to seeing people.
“Pubs are going to be open outside as well so just to be able to go into town and do everything again gives us a bit of normality back.”
To keep themselves and their customers safe, staff at New Look have been busy preparing the store to ensure it complies with Covid-19 guidance.
Joanne hopes their efforts will give the public confidence it is safe to start shopping once again.
Staff have high hopes after seeing their counterparts south of the border welcome large numbers of clients when retail reopened earlier this month.
“Our English stores have been trading amazingly well,” Joanne said.
“People are a bit sick of wearing joggers and being in the house all day and they want to see what’s out there.
“We knew this lockdown wouldn’t be as good as the first one.
“We were just going into our Christmas sale when we went into lockdown. Our biggest day is Boxing Day, yet we weren’t able to trade. We had spent a night shift getting set up and then got told we couldn’t open.”
She added: “All our team are wearing masks now which wasn’t required initially. We are very lucky because our store is very spacious, and all our fixtures are at least two metres apart anyway.
“We’ve got signage to remind people to watch their distance and there is plenty of space to manoeuvre when they are in the queue. We’ve got a very stringent cleaning regime which we carry out every hour, if not more, and all the team are briefed on that.
“We are very, very strict on all the Covid regulations. We want people to not be scared to come and pay us a visit.”