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Shops in Wales react to pushed-back reopening date as big chains announce plans

Independent shops and huge chains have reacted to the news they will be able to reopen across Wales from April 12.

On Friday it was announced that supermarkets will be able to sell non-essential goods from March 22 but other stores still have to wait for weeks.

It had previously been suggested that non-essential retail could open on March 15 in line with hairdressers however the Welsh Government has announced that businesses will have to wait longer before re-opening.

Some independent shop owners have hit out at the delays branding the move to allow supermarkets to sell non-essential items first as “unfair”, while others have welcomed the pushed-back date.



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A number of big chains have also reacted positively to the news and announced their plans to reopen on April 12, although Ikea said it was “albeit later than we’d hoped for”.

But for some smaller shop owners, like Tracey Bateman, who runs the popular Oyster Gallery and Interiors, the plans were not welcomed.

Since the new changes were announced the store, which has been going for almost 30 years, has been covered in tape with a message criticising the plans.



The tape put up on the Oyster Gallery and Interiors shop on Friday

On Friday Tracey said: “In the last lockdown he stopped supermarkets selling non-essential items to protect small businesses, and yet now it’s not being done.

“I’ve agreed with everything he’s done, every step of the way, even at Christmas time.”

Tracey questioned whether First Minister Mark Drakeford pushed back the date to the same as England’s to avoid shoppers from across the border coming to Wales, but feels it’s unfair supermarkets have the upper hand.



The sign posted to the shop on Friday

She added: “I really thought we would be open ahead of Easter, it’s absolutely devastating in that respect for us.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant news for the hairdressers but that is such close contact. And we’ve spent tens upon tens of thousands of pounds on stock now which unless I put on Facebook, I’ve got nobody looking around.

“Yet you can go into a supermarket and buy cushions, candles, throws, mirrors, lighting and you could have 10 or 15 people in one aisle.”

Tracey said at Christmas time they were only having 12 people in the store at one time, with queues down the road.

She said they have been getting new products and marketing ready for reopening in March, including new branding for Mother’s Day packaging, which will now go unused adding the holiday is second only to Christmas.

Tracey said: “Now if he [Mark Drakeford] said to me small independent businesses can open up on a strict one in one out I would gladly do that for the next month. I would take that. We’ve always had strict rules here.”

Since the latest rule changes broke on Friday, Tracey said she’s received several messages from residents with some calling the move “totally wrong”.

In Cardiff, the manager of one of the city centre’s popular arcades said they are “excited” but “disappointed” not all of their stores will be able to reopen shortly.



The impressive-looking Morgan Quarter

Morgan Quarter Centre manager Rory Fleming said: “We’re very excited about today’s news. We’re disappointed that not all our retailers will be able to open, but we’re thrilled that we can welcome more people back into our arcades.

“We’ve remained open throughout lockdown, and have been doing all we can to support our retailers where possible. The Welsh Government’s announcement is a big step in the right direction.

“With a growing proportion of the nation being vaccinated, we just hope that once shops all shops reopen, they stay open.

“The independents which inhabit our arcades are the heart of Cardiff’s retail scene. We eagerly await welcoming more people back on Monday, with hopefully everyone being able to shop small and local once again in April.”



How Wellfield Road looks following completion of its new bike lane

Tucked away in Wellfield Court in Roath sits small vintage store Penny Lane Vintage. For owner Belinda O’Donnell, who set up the store more than six years ago, the delayed date is welcome.

Belinda said: “I’m relieved to know now what the path is because up to yesterday we, small independent shops like myself, didn’t know if we’d be open up on Monday or not.

“And it’s terribly short notice and you need more than a weekend to get your shop ready for reopening.

“Obviously, I’d been preparing but you need more time to let your customers know you’ll be open and generally mentally you need to prepare yourself too for reopening.

“So I was thrilled. It would have been nice to open in some ways, but I felt it isn’t the right time to open yet.

“Especially with England on a different timetable. It didn’t make sense to open a month before and I felt that footfall would be very low and we’d be struggling if we opened making it difficult financially.”

She added that she understands frustrations over supermarkets being allowed to sell non-essential items but that it’s a “balancing act” to please the public and retailers.

What have the big chains said?

Next

Next confirmed on Friday that they will reopen all of their stores in Wales on April 12.

Ikea



Ikea in Grangetown, Cardiff

The furniture giant has only one store in Wales, located in Cardiff, and it’s set to reopen on April 12.

An Ikea spokesperson said: “For a number of weeks we have been working towards ensuring our store is ready to safely welcome back customers.

“Now that we have a clear date, albeit later than we’d hoped for, we look forward to reopening our Cardiff store on April 12.

“With life at home more important than ever, our store will be ready to welcome customers back, with extensive measures in place to help ensure the safety of our customers and co-workers.”

St David’s Shopping Centre

The huge shopping centre is home to dozens of brands in the centre of Cardiff.

A spokesperson for St David’s said: “We’re very much looking forward to opening our doors once again and welcoming people back to St David’s when it is safe to do so, in line with government guidelines.

“Our team has been working hard to prepare for this and they are very well-practised in managing the re-opening of non-essential retail.

“We will continue to follow all government guidance, with additional safety measures in place such as one-way systems and signs and floor stickers to remind guests of social distancing and ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience.”

John Lewis



The John Lewis store in Cardiff

John Lewis has refused to comment on the future of its Cardiff store following the latest announcement that would allow it to reopen on April 12.

Following the Welsh Government announcement on Friday, a spokeswoman for the firm said: “Following the announcement of the proposed road maps for England and Wales, both of which are dependent on a number of conditions being met, we will continue to plan for the reopening of our John Lewis shops.”

Read the full story here.

Primark

The huge clothing chain said their Welsh stores will be reopening on April 12.

Huge queues were pictured outside their store on Cardiff’s Queen Street following the fire-break lockdown.

A Primark spokesperson said: “We are really looking forward to welcoming our customers back to our stores in Wales on the provisional re-opening date of 12 April.

“We know our customers will love our amazing new Spring/Summer ranges, including bright leisurewear in spring pastels, as well as some exciting new collaborations with Disney and Pineapple, which will all be in-store when we re-open.

“As always, safety remains our top priority and we will continue to have extensive safety measures in place to help ensure that our employees and customers can return to Primark with confidence.”

See the number of coronavirus cases where you live here:

The Confederation of British Industry Wales director said the latest announcement “leaves firms with the impression of being marched to the top of the hill, only to be asked to walk back down again”.

Ian Price, CBI Wales director, said: “While health clearly comes first and the First Minister is right to proceed with caution in terms of easing restrictions, many businesses – particularly those in hardest-hit sectors like non-essential retail – were given a strong indication that a mid-month reopening was on the cards.

“This latest announcement, of a more limited relaxation of restrictions than anticipated, leaves firms with the impression of being marched to the top of the hill, only to be asked to walk back down again.

“With low demand and cashflow problems affecting almost all SMEs across Wales, many will have already undertaken significant and costly preparations to ensure they get up and running as soon as possible. While continued business support is obviously welcome, it can’t come close to making up for lost trade.

“The Welsh Government has engaged positively with business during many phases of the pandemic, however this late change of heart is a disappointing reminder of the need for transparency around decision-making, particularly as many of the key data points – especially on transmission and vaccine uptake – have been heading in the right direction for some time.”

You can see the full changes and key dates for the future that Mr Drakeford has announced in this article. We also sat down with the First Minister and he spoke in detail about the thinking behind the choices he had made.

In his speech, he said that easing lockdown was only possible thanks to the sacrifices of the people of Wales.

He said: “Thanks to everything you have done. You have stayed at home. You have worked from home. And you have home-schooled your children. Your actions – and all your sacrifices – have helped to bring coronavirus under control. Your hard work has helped to save lives.”

Outdoor sports facilities, such as golf clubs, will be able to open again from Saturday – get the latest on that here.

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