The long anticipated resume of non-essential shops commenced on the 12th of April, the first of the reopening phase preceding the return of travel and indoor hospitality on the 17th of May.

Many of us witnessed queues for shops starting from as early as 8am, with people rushing to high streets to get their fix of new clothes and shoes.

The general public were advised by Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, to act responsibly whilst the reopening of London begins once again.

The vaccination rollout is still in progress and we are seeing more people getting immunised. Over 10 million people have already received a second dose of the vaccine in England.

With the government confirming that “COVID status certification” will not need to be provided upon gyms, shops and outdoor hospitality continuing, more people are confident getting back to what can be considered normality.

But with shops having been shut for close to 4 months, what impact has this had on retail workers who now have to get back into the routine of work, whilst trying to stay safe?

How much progress have we made?

According to News Scientist, infection levels in England are at the lowest they have been in 7 months. The COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to those most in need, and is now being offered to the rest of the population under the age of 50.

33 million people in the country have received their first dose, and a further 10 million have already received their second.

The treatment is being allocated according to age, and the UK are currently on track to have immunised the remaining 21 million of the adult population by July ending.

However, despite the successful vaccine run, some retail workers are still in doubt about their safety whilst at work, and having to be in contact with a number of shoppers throughout the day.

Taylor Rand, a 20-year-old student who works part time in Westfield Shopping Centre said: “We now have to take a lot of precautions to ensure that the shop is safe for customers as well as us.

Taylor speaking on being back at work following the reopening of non-essential shops.

“We sanitise things that are regularly touched, such as the card machines and mirrors in the fitting rooms. We also have limits on how many people are allowed in the store at a time, which is currently 49”.

However, she added: “I feel like we do so much for social distancing to not even be observed once customers are inside”.

In response to being asked for her opinion regarding the numbers of shoppers on reopening day, Taylor said: “I definitely expected the shopping centre to be busy considering that we were stuck at home for months.

“The shopping centre itself is not as packed as I thought it would be, but there are ridiculous lines for the shops”.

She added: “a lot of customers are huddled together and I feel like social distancing has gone out of the window”.

Shoppers queuing to get inside a Primark store. Source: ITV

Taylor, who is a student at the University of Roehampton, spoke on her concerns about working during a pandemic, especially as she studies Primary Education.

“My university course involves me working with kids so thankfully, I get tested regularly”, she said.

“But I do feel like there was a time I caught COVID from work. There was a period where I was constantly working without any PPE or testing”.

Shoppers alike also spoke on how much retail therapy has changed for them post COVID.

Debby Akinsusi spoke on her experience after being amongst the thousands of people who flocked to the Westfield Shopping Centre during the first week of reopening.

“The shopping experience has changed very much. Certain amounts of people are allowed in a shop at a time now. You have to wear masks. There’s glass dividing people from each other. It’s a lot”.

She added: “I think it’s better because it’s safer. You’re able to practise the COVID-19 measures, but people just don’t follow them”.

She expressed her concerns about the seriousness of the virus: “I don’t think people are taking the virus seriously.

“When I was out there was no social distancing measures being enforced. You would either hear people coughing or not covering their mouths”.

But she added: “I personally felt safe because I wore my mask 24/7”.

When asked what she would like to see more of, Debby made it very clear that it would be more enforcement of COVID rules, such as mandatory mask wearing.

With the first week of shops reopening coming to close, the anticipation has worn off and the shopping centres appear emptier.

However, a lot of people have expressed their desires to wait before they spend, so as to avoid the excessive queues and big crowds.

Does this mean we will see even more shoppers in the coming weeks?

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