Portsmouth Primark criticised after hour-long queues mount up outside store

THE city council has rapped Primark on the knuckles over concerns about social distancing.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 9:40 am

With non-essential retail allowed to reopen amid new government guidelines on coronavirus, queues outside shops in Commercial Road piled up on Monday, particularly early in the morning.

All of the reopened stores had social distancing measures in place, such as markings outside and hand sanitiser indoors, but large queues formed outside shops such as H&M and Sports Direct.

Outside Primark, the queue in the city centre backed up around the Edinburgh Road, by The Royal Standard pub.

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Queueing for Primark in Commercial Road, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (150620-9947)

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The queue – which saw some shoppers wait for hours to get in – has sparked concern from Portsmouth City Council, with deputy leader Cllr Steve Pitt saying that national superstores such as Primark should have been more prepared.

He said: ‘Businesses have a responsibility to plan and manage their reopening and to make sure their customers are safe.

‘The queues today were not unexpected and national retailers should have anticipated the high levels of demand and arranged adequate staffing to manage their queues safely or put systems in place, such as ticketing, to minimise queue lengths.

Queues in Commercial Road persisted through most of the morning. Picture: Sarah Standing (150620-4137)

‘Public safety is our primary concern and we have staff onsite monitoring the situation and advising store managers of their responsibilities.’

During the day, council officers were spotted rearranging queues along Commercial Road, as well as handing out face masks to shoppers.

Southsea couple Kim Gardener, 40, and Anthony Grzesica, 41, were towards the back of the Primark queue, and were fiercely critical of the lack of social distancing measures laid out.

Kim said: 'It’s not enough – it's just ridiculous.

‘Primark should have known it was going to be busy and put out barriers or something like that.

‘Instead, it's all so scattered; people aren't staying 2m apart and the queue is going too far. We only needed some clothes for our three children, but this is mental.'

Meanwhile at the front of the queue, Audrey Brown and daughter Kieara, from Havant, were third in line alongside Kieara's friend, Maisie Landers.

Audrey, 51, said: ‘We got up at 5am to get down there and arrived at 6am.

‘Primark was only letting 20 people or so in at a time, so once you were in you didn’t feel rushed or pressed for time.

‘When I got out it looked exceptionally busy though.’

A spokeswoman for Primark said stores across the country have plans in place to tackle growing queues.

She said: ‘To help keep people safe outside our stores, each Primark store has a plan in place including additional security and management staff to reduce risk and ensure social distancing for customers who are queuing.

‘In some cases we have made decisions to open our doors early as part of this queue management.

‘We are closely monitoring all of our re-openings and we will respond to anything which isn’t working, or where we need to do more to help protect our customers and employees.’

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