Whitby shops re-open with new safety measures in place
After twelve weeks of lockdown, non-essential retail shops across England were allowed to re-open.
Our community reporter, Louise Perrin, explored Whitby to find out what changes you can expect to see when you return to the high street.
Visit Whitby in June in a normal year and you can expect to find hundreds of tourists thronging the streets, chattering away, eating ice creams and generally enjoying all that Whitby has to offer.
However, the hub-bub of noise is virtually non-existent at the moment.
Entering Baxtergate, the first people I encounter are two of Scarborough Borough Councils new Information Ambassadors who will be reminding people to observe social distancing for the next thirty days.
Baxtergate feels quiet and few shops are open, but I pop into Boots where I am greeted by a friendly lady wearing a visor and offering hand sanitiser.
Further along the street the ladies in bag shop, Thornton and Collins, are wearing masks and also encourage me to use hand sanitiser.
The clothes shop and Shoe Zone are also open, but it is striking that the cafes and charity shops are not. It makes the street feel barren and empty.
Over the bridge I enter Sandgate. It is odd to see so many windows empty and shops closed along here, but I’m greeted with a friendly welcome from the sweet shop which has had new glass screens installed to keep staff and customers safe. A one in one out policy ensures I don’t linger for too long.
After how quiet everywhere else had been I was surprised to find Abbey Wharf Market as busy as it normally is. Almost every stall owner is present sporting a variety of masks and visors. A one-way system has been introduced and the floor has been marked with yellow tape to ensure people keep their distance.
I leave and up head past the Market Place and continue along Church Street toward the 199 steps. Abbey Jet’s doors are open and I’m invited in. There are screens on the counter and few people have been in, but owner Richard is confident that things will improve towards the weekend.
Finally I reach W Hamond’s, one of the oldest stores in Whitby. Only one of Hamond’s shops is open at the moment, their flagship store at the bottom of the 199 steps.
There are a selection of Covid protection items for their customers to choose from on entry, ranging from hand sanitisers to masks.
Each staff member has a mask and all have taken the National Association of Jewellers Covid safe qualification. The shop is marked out with social distancing signs and a new sterilising machine has been purchased to ensure each item of jewellery is sterilised before and after customers have tried it on.
Walking back along Church Street Totally Natural Skin Care have re-opened their doors.The company has been lucky enough to be able to trade throughout the pandemic, supplying hand sanitiser to local companies and online purchasers.
Once again, the screens which are evident in most shops are in place here and there are social distancing markers on the floor and a hand sanitising station at the door for those who wish to use it.
I take a final trip to one of the town's largest stores, Beever’s & Co. Store owner Paul Stephenson is keen to demonstrate the safety measures put in place there.
Staff are wearing masks and there is now a one way system through the shop from top to bottom. Like almost everywhere else, there is hand sanitiser available for customers on entry.
Beever’s are fortunate. The store has plenty of space and they are able to have a large number of people browsing at any one time while maintaining social distancing.
For the vulnerable, Beever’s have also put measures in place to help them. Mr Stephenson said: “We are offering private appointments for those who need them from 9am-10am and 4pm-5.30pm, which will allow them to browse the store at their leisure and feel totally safe.”
“We are also doing contactless delivery as far as possible. Our delivery drivers are wearing masks and gloves and we call to let customers know what time they will arrive so that they can open all the doors and wait in a separate room.”
“The big push at the moment is support local. We are using Rocket Removals for deliveries and local contractors for carpet fitting. We’ve also been purchasing all of our hand sanitiser from Whitby Gin who have been doing an incredible job.”
Returning to town has been an unusual experience, but in it’s own way it is reassuring to see that so many shops have measures in place to keep us all safe