The retail recovery begins: many shops and stores re-open across Banbury

Many shops from major chain stores to independent retailers re-opened for business across Banbury town on Monday June 15.

By Matt Elofson
Monday, 15th June 2020, 10:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 10:58 am

Primark at the at Banbury Gateway Shopping Park, The Works in the High Street, and multiple stores in the Castle Quay Shopping Centre opened their doors for the first time in months.

Many stores limited the number of people inside at one time, which led to queues outside in some places of people waiting to get inside.

Two Banbury friends met up and went to the Gateway Shopping Park to go to Primark. One of the women said: "We thought there was going to be huge queues, but it was only five minutes. I literally just came here for cheap socks and sunglasses. It's cheap, but it lasts.

A few people wait to enter Primark store at the Banbury Gateway Shopping Park on Monday June 15

"It's just one step closer to getting back to normal."

Some stores set up hand sanitiser stations for customers to use as they entered the store such as Next at the Gateway Shopping Park. Staff at Next also wore face shields and the store had signs posted inside reminding customers of the 2m rule.

A spokesperson for Banbury Gateway said: "Our team have taken every precaution to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and visitors in readiness for the reopening phase.

"This includes introducing additional cleaning and hygiene measures, asking visitors to comply with social distancing rules at all times, and introducing queue-management at stores, where necessary.”

The parking lot was more than half full at the Banbury Gateway Shopping Park on Monday June 15 as retail non-essential shops and stores reopened

Businesses now open at Banbury Gateway Shopping Park include: M&S, Superdrug, Next, Primark, River Island and Mountain Warehouse. Starbucks and McDonalds are offering takeaway service only until further notice. The EE store and The Gift Shop remain closed at this time.

Banbury Gateway offers free parking and encourages people to use bike racks located around the shopping park.

While there were very little queues for Primark and the shops at the Banbury Gateway, longer queues were spotted at the Castle Quay Shopping Centre.

But the town centre shop queues moved quickly, and only had a dozen or so people waiting to inside the centre's Sports Direct location.

A dozen or so people waited in a que to get into Sports Direct at the Castle Quay Shopping Centre on Monday June 15 as non-essential retail shops reopened across the UK

One woman, who waited to get into Sports Direct with her two children, said: "It's very busy, but the distancing was okay."

She came away with a pair roller blades for her daughter from Sports Direct, and a playmobil for her son from The Entertainer.

One couple waited a few minutes to get into The Works in the High Street.

He said: "I wanted a jigsaw. My wife wanted a few books. You've just got to make the best of it. You just have to take precautions and wash your hands."

Oliver Wren, the director of the Castle Quay Shopping Centre in the town centre of Banbury

Not all stores at Castle Quay opened on Monday, but the 'majority' of the centre's stores opened. Some of the stores will open later in the week like Debenhams which is expected to reopen by midweek on Wednesday June 18.

Oliver Wren, the shopping centre's director, said: "We have been working hard behind the scenes on safety measures, including clear signage indicating social distancing and arrows to follow as you move throughout the centre, and increasing the number of hand sanitising stations available to the public.

Designated entrance and exit points have been set up around the shopping centre, which have been clearly signposted to ensure a one-way flow of traffic.

There are more than 30 hand sanitiser stations throughout the centre.

Mr Wren added: "It's just about reducing that level of contact, while still being welcoming to the customers.

"We want to make sure the public feel safe here to shop in this new normal."

One of the 30 hand sanitiser stations across the Castle Quay Shopping Centre in the Banbury town centre

Many the cafes will not open next week. But Muffin Break in the shopping centre is already open on a take-away only basis. Several of the other cafes in the cenre plan to reopen later this month.

The centre's main toilets reopened in their normal location next to the customer service station in the centre.

A secutity guard monitors the number of the people who enter and exit the main toilets to allow for safe distancing.

Officials with the Banbury Business Improvement District (BID) prepared and gave away re-opening packs for its member businesses for the reopening of retail shops and stores across town this week.

Nate Wilde, a town host for Banbury BID, said: "I was in Banbury during the day and had a good walk around the town, and talked to a few of the business owners.

"It was nice to see the town looking lively again, and I'm sure all the businesses feel the same.

"The number of people present on the streets and in Castle Quay was notably higher than it has been.

"The short stay car park in the market square was consistently full. The largest queues of the day that I observed were at Sports Direct in the CQ - I would say it was at least 20 people strong outside the shop at every point that I walked past.

"A lot of the businesses were making use of the social distancing goods and other items that we had included in our recovery packs, and it's great to see the rules being followed by all the customers as well.

"Everyone appeared to be social distancing, and I didn't come across any shops that weren't encouraging a system that followed the social distancing guidelines.

"The atmosphere around the town was positive, and I'm looking forward to it picking up even more when the rest of the businesses are given the greenlight to open."