WATCH: What does Ipswich town centre look like ahead of reopening?
PUBLISHED: 18:54 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:53 05 June 2020
The usually bustling centre of Ipswich has resembled a ghost town over recent months – but now preparations are in full swing to bring shoppers back safely.
Floor markings were sprayed outside Debenhams today, as like many other retailers in the town, the department store prepares to welcome its first customers almost three months after the UK was shut down.
Staff were seen measuring out the two metre distance between spray-painted footprints and signs were placed in shop windows to remind people to “stay alert” and abide by the social distancing rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
More: Where can I shop? A handy guide to Suffolk stores which are now open – or set to reopen on June 15
Steven Cook, managing director of Debenhams, which is opening its Ipswich site on June 15, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming customers back to our stores in the coming weeks.
“From the installation of Perspex screens at till points to the roll-out of social distancing procedures and PPE, we have been working hard to ensure our colleagues and customers can work and shop with confidence.”
Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer has remained open throughout the lockdown restrictions, with customers seen queueing outside with two metre gaps between parties.
Stores such as Primark and H&M have summer clothes in the shop windows, while independent store Zeebra Chic was spotted receiving a fresh lick of paint in Dial Lane.
However, not all stores are preparing to reopen in June – and many still have old signs and displays in their windows.
Thorntons still has its Easter display visible to passers-by, while shoe shop Office has barely any sandals in sight and its winter collection remains on show.
The town still seems empty, but there is still lots more to be done ahead of June 15 in order to encourage shoppers they can return with confidence.
“Keep left signs” on streets for pedestrians and the closure to traffic of one of the busiest roads in Ipswich, are just two of the changes being introduced to make shoppers feel safer when some non-essential stores reopen.
More: Road closure and ‘Keep Left’ signs coming in as Ipswich eases lockdown
Plans to open up the town include a keep left pedestrian scheme, extensive banner messaging, including floor stickers and lamppost banners and posters for shop windows.
Meanwhile, Upper Brook Street will be closed to all traffic during the day.
Despite this, many people say they will continue to shop online as they feel it is more safe.
More: Independent shops prepare to reopen in June – but will Ipswich shoppers visit?
Nicola Delaney, believes that people are only going to go out for things they know they want or need, adding that “browsing is just not going to happen” for a while.
While Hazel Fulcher added: “I’m in no rush to go out and buy clothes, shoes, books, electronics etc – that people have touched or tried on.”
However, some people have pledged their support for the town’s independent businesses, saying they will be visiting the popular St Peter’s Street when allowed to do so.
Sarah Clark said: “I’ll be supporting local businesses where I can. If we don’t use them, we’ll lose them and become even more of an identikit town.”
Lisa Kaine added: “I’ll definitely be going to high street shops, I can’t wait. I’ve had enough time shut indoors.”
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