Business chiefs in the north-east have enthusiastically welcomed the confirmation that they will be able to reopen from Monday.
All shops will reopen along with hospitality – although indoor venues are unable to serve alcohol until next month. The tourism sector will also open again, welcoming visitors for the first time this year.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the April 26 easing would go ahead as planned at a briefing, saying the case numbers were going in the “right direction”.
Business owners across the region, who have been looking forward to welcoming back customers for months, said they couldn’t wait to throw open their doors to the “old faithfuls”.
‘It’s been a tough winter’
Stuart Devine, operations director for the Ashvale in Aberdeen, said: “We’re delighted, obviously.
“We’re excited, and we’re just hoping that it’s fast forward from now. Here’s hoping this is it.”
He added: “Everything’s getting planned just now, we’re all working like mad to get everything ready.
“We can’t wait to get our doors open again and see some of our old faithful back, because we’ve obviously missed them – there’s some customers we haven’t seen since Christmas Eve.
“It’s been a tough winter, so I think people are desperate to get some sort of sanity back in their life and talk to friends.”
Stuart Milne, general manager of Aberdeen jeweller Finnies and chairman of the Greater George Street Traders Association, said: “Altogether, we are positive. We have to be.
“We are looking forward, we’re excited about welcoming our customers back next week and we look forward to seeing them.”
He added: “We have a week’s worth of appointments at the moment, notably for wedding rings, which are some of the most popular items – that’s what the lockdown has done.”
Craig Stevenson, the manager of Aberdeen’s Bon Accord Centre, said he was “delighted” to welcome back retailers back to their stores from April 26.
He added: “Enhanced safety measures remain in place at the centre including a keep left system, hand sanitising stations, touch point cleaning and more.
“We look forward to welcoming customers back for a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.”
Aberdeen Inspired CEO Adrian Watson said the city still has a lot to offer despite being battered by a difficult lockdown.
He said: “It is well documented the current challenge to our city centre and indeed most others, but Aberdeen City Centre still provides the strongest retail offering north of the central belt, complimented by a fantastic and diverse range of hospitality and leisure.
“These businesses have been working hard behind the scenes to prepare for Monday’s opening and look forward to safely welcoming the north east public back into the heart of our city, at a time when it has never been more needed.”
Support and funding required in months ahead
The Moray Chamber of Commerce praised firms for adapting over the last 12 months, but stressed it was crucial support remains as the situation eases.
In a statement, the chamber said: “We know how hard this lockdown has been for many businesses, but businesses have adapted whether that’s through creating a safe environment to adhere to the Covid guidance or adapting with the help of technology to continue trading.
“However, it’s so important that the support and funding remains in place for these businesses for as long as the restrictions are in place, especially as many will be operating at limited capacity.
“We know that consumer habits have changed over the pandemic however, we also know how important it is for people to continue to support local businesses and keep money in the region for economic recovery.”