Shoppers queue for Sports Direct and TK Maxx at Hatfield’s Galleria as non-essential shops return
PUBLISHED: 16:59 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:00 15 June 2020
Clothing retailers appeared to make the biggest gains at the Galleria in Hatfield when it opened its doors today.
Queues at Sports Direct, M&S Clothing and TK Maxx were significant as non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen their doors once again.
One woman told the Welwyn Hatfield Times she was glad to be back and excited to have a nose around the shops for some bargains.
Another woman praised the shopping centre – which closed more than three months ago – for having a one-way system and health and safety measures throughout.
Tim Stirling, director of retail operations at Galleria’s owner Landsec, said he was really happy that around 180 people showed up to queue at 9.45am – which in normal trading times would have less customers when doors open on a Monday.
“Everyone was being very friendly. My staff are being very friendly. We’re happy that the health and safety of [our customers],” Mr Stirling told the WHT.
He added that 71 per cent of shops are now open at the Galleria but many more will soon reopen – bringing it up to 80 per cent by the weekend – as they stock take and get their staff back from furlough.
However he acknowledged that volunteer organisations, such as Free Books Hatfield and Isabel Hospice, and the opticians may struggle and have not set a date for restarting.
Free Books Hatfield said: “The requirements of social distancing and allowing our customers to safely browse before making their choices poses a considerable challenge to an entirely voluntary organisation such as ourselves.”
The Galleria’s Mr Stirling also pointed out that shops do not have to open or stick to their usual hours if it is not safe for them.
“The paramount importance is the health, safety and wellbeing for our own staff, our brand partners and customers.”
However, in response to concerns that the two metre rule is restrictive for people’s shopping habits, Mr Stirling said that there was plenty of room at the shopping centre’s “half a million square foot” space to accommodate customers at 100 per cent capacity.
He added: “When it gets to Wednesday we’ll review the plan to see if its working. At 11.02 with 30 per cent occupancy it is not a problem.”
And if it does get to the point where thousands of people show up, Mr Stirling said they might initiate a one in one out policy.
“We accommodated the McDonald’s drive-thru without any issues. [Cars were] not on the high street. Not onto the road,” he said.
If people do not follow the guidelines, the Galleria manager said they have “a responsibility” to people who are acting socially irresponsibly as well, and they will be flexible when dealing with potential problems.
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He doesn’t think they will be at capacity Monday to Friday but did expect even more people to show up on a Saturday if it rains.
But added that: “We don’t want people stood in the rain.”
So the Galleria has allocated space in the multi-storey car park and in the centre where they can queue if there is a break to the great weather we’ve been having.
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