Sunday, 12 July 2020
OWNERS of “non-essential” shops in Henley are preparing to re-open their doors.
Retailers who have been unable to trade during the coronavirus lockdown have been told by Boris Johnson that they should be able return on June 15 providing they have put measures in to reduce the risk of customers being infected.
The Prime Minister said the move would also depend on further progress in reducing the risk of infection.
The Government has published detailed advice for the retail sector. Staff will have to use personal protective equipment and traders will have to increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, use screens or barriers to separate people and restrict the number of customers at any one time to ensure social distancing can be followed.
Liz Felix, who owns her own millinery shop in Reading Road, said she had not made a decision about returning on June 15 but might open for appointments only or for one day a week to the public.
“I am a little bit concerned about opening so quickly,” she said. “I am trying to get my head around it.”
Mrs Felix who has owned the business for six years, has already lost a huge amount of trade due to the cancellation of Henley Royal Regatta and local weddings.
She said: “I know some shops are desperate to open but I am under less pressure because the worst that could have happened has happened.
“If the wedding ban is going to be lifted and people are going to want to come in then I will be open more often but initially I think it would be appointment only.
“I have hand sanitiser and I am looking at additional signage for the shop. I have also ordered a screen for the cash desk but because of the nature of my business it is frequently necessary to be in close contact with someone, which is why I am hesitant about opening.
“I am talking to other milliners about how they are going to re-open to see how I might go about it because it has to be a safe environment.
“I am very lucky that my landlord has been so understanding and supportive. I haven’t been earning any money at all but I am hoping that I can recover and make a fresh start.
“Part of me feels there is no point re-opening until next spring. The spring through to early summer is the peak period for my business and supports me for the rest of the year and I have lost that already.”
Antony Reineke, who owns Studio 35 jewellers in Duke Street, said he was also considering an appointment-only service or opening for a limited number of hours.
He said: “We do hope to be able to re-open to the general public but we have to look at the guidelines and see what we have to do to allow this place to be safe and then we will make a judgement on whether it is viable or not.
“If people aren’t interested in buying jewellery, then I don’t want to put myself at risk and there is other stuff I can be doing.
“We will definitely try to open because it is difficult to sell bespoke jewellery online. It won’t be every day — we might just start with three days a week and it might be appointment only.”
Laurence Morris, owner of Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said he had wanted to open next week.
He said: “Finding out that we have to wait another two weeks is very frustrating but we have to go with what we are being told.
“As a small business, we have been closed for far too long and it is almost a case of damage limitation over the summer months. Hopefully, confidence will slowly come back to the high street and people will support their local businesses.
“We will have all our summer stock ready and we will have all the screens up and offer face masks and hand sanitiser. We will do everything we need to do to conform with the guidelines.
“We just need to encourage people to come in and shop. We all need to make a living and we can’t wait to see customers again.”
Joan Bland, owner of Asquiths teddy bear Shop in New Street, said: “Gone are the days when we could just allow people to walk into our shop and browse — they will have to be invited in.
“I for one will have my front door shut and they can ring the bell and we will allow one person to come in at a time. We will ask them to wear gloves and a mask.
“We will be taking all the precautions and advice from the Government and we will follow their instructions. We have to make sure no infection can be transmitted.
“All the bears have been in hibernation and the shop has been decorated. We are ready to get open and get started.
“I wouldn’t imagine we will go back to normal any time soon because it would be impossible but we will do our best to manage under the circumstances.”
Frederick McDonald, director of the Informality art gallery in Market Place, said: “It feels like a long time since we have seen anyone.
“We have had to operate a lot more online with digital exhibitions and collaborate with other galleries rather than relying on our physical space.
“Things have changed but because we have been proactive and adapted online we haven’t been hit as badly as we thought we might be. We are still here and still operating, which is the main thing.
“We will have cleaners coming in and we want to introduce a method of people walking around the space in a certain way and monitoring the number who can come in — we will probably limit it to four at a time.
“It has taken the Government a long time to confirm if art galleries are classified as non-essential retail but now we know we can re-open with everyone else.”
David Rodger-Sharp’s jewellery shop in Duke Street has been refurbished during the lockdown ready to re-open next month.
He said: “Obviously we want to re-open as soon as we can and when we do, we want to wow people.
“We have installed acrylic screens that protect our customers and employees. We have implemented a one-way flow system in store with floor markings and signage.
“We have invested in two UV light boxes that allow us to safely continue to offer repairs. We also have PPE available for our customers if required. We won’t be able to offer ear piercing until it is safe. From time to time, we may ask people to stand outside until it is safe for you to enter.”
Chef Shaun Dickens began a takeaway service at his Bistro at The Boathouse in Station Road today (Friday).
Customers are able to order from a limited menu and collect between 5pm and 8.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
There will also be the chance to order takeaway food in person between noon and 3pm on those days. People being asked to queue at a safe distance on the restaurant’s outdoor decking.
Mr Dickens said: “The decision has been more about coming up with a long-term game plan. Things are looking pretty bleak at the moment and Henley is missing out on all of this summer trade. It looks like it is going to go on for the majority of the summer and even when we do re-open officially it will cause a lot of heartache.
“The rest of the team is on furlough and we will run it as a two-man band with me and my restaurant manager.
“We need to try to get some cash in the bank now to be able to see us through the winter. The world and his dog has been telling me to open as a takeaway.
“We decided we had to give it a shot to aid the survival of the restaurant. Two of our vegetable suppliers have gone bust during this time.
“The hospitality industry is on its knees. I have read that as many as 50 per cent of business might not be able to re-open after all of this and that is a very scary thought. My biggest concern is not now but the winter when it gets really tough.”
Vicky Facy, owner of the Facy department store in Market Place, said: “We look forward to opening and in order for our customers to feel safe and have the confidence to shop, we are looking at all the number of ways we can do this.
“We will be managing the number of people shopping at any one time. There will be a one-way system with floor markings around the store to ensure the 2m spacing is maintained.
“The contactless payments limit has been raised to £45 and a Perspex screen will be fitted at the payment area. We will limit the number of staff at one time and are looking at slightly shorter hours and possibly opening on Sundays.
“Hygiene procedures will be put in place to wipe surfaces on a regular basis and provide hand sanitiser and wipes. On clothing, we offer a 30-day refund, which reduces the need to try things on, but for any items that have been tried there will be a quarantine period.
“During this difficult time we have used the opportunity to carry out a deep clean throughout the premises and get the shop front painted. The market place is looking very exciting with all the new restaurants opening.”
Christiaan Jonkers, who owns Jonkers Rare Books is Hart Street, said: “I am sure the opening of non-essential shops has been considered with regards to the spread of the virus and so we are happy and willing to open as soon as possible.
“We don’t normally have large volumes of people in our shop at any one time. Should that happen we will ask people to wait.
“We are in the process of doing our risk assessment with the Government guidelines and there will be hand sanitiser available and screening around the till area.”
30 May 2020
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