Whiteley Shopping Centre reopens - but not to 'business as usual'
Whiteley Shopping Centre has seen non-essential stores reopen – but shoppers and shop managers have warned it is not ‘business as usual’.
More than 25 of its 70 stores are now open, including some restaurants which are providing a click and collect service.
The centre has floor stickers and signs to help customers maintain safe social distancing, as well as prohibiting customers loitering.
Annarose Hearsum, retail liaison executive at Whiteley Shopping Centre, said: ‘We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Whiteley, although we’re clearly not back to ‘business as usual’ just yet.
‘In line with the latest government guidance, we have been working incredibly hard behind-the-scenes to put extra safety and hygiene measures in place.’
Business may not have returned to normal but footfall has been surprisingly high, according to Vicky Bennett, manager of the Starbucks branch in the centre.
She said: ‘We opened at 7am this morning and have seen a lot of regulars return.
‘We normally have 400 transactions in a day – in the first four hours of opening, we have had about 78.
‘But people are still very wary.’
Yesterday’s opening of Sports Direct saw queues 40-customers long at its entrance throughout the day, as well as steady trade throughout today, according to manager Craig Tuckwell.
He said: ‘We were at our capacity of 29 customers throughout yesterday.
‘Today feels like an average day in terms of footfall.’
But some shoppers found the centre ‘pretty dead’ – although the lack of crowds could lead some customers to return.
Sarah Algar, from Hedge End, said: ‘It’s pretty dead. I was expecting it to be a lot busier.
‘They have put in the safety precautions pretty well – I’d feel safe coming back.’
Starbucks-regular Ikue Rajput, from Whiteley, agreed: ‘I was expecting it to be a lot busier.
‘I’ll come back more because its not very busy.’
A full list of re-opened stores and restaurants can be found on the shopping centre’s website.
The centre’s Cineworld branch is aiming to open again next month, on Friday, July 10.