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The Entertainer store Hanley store front header2.jpg
Edward Hands
The Entertainer store Hanley store front.jpg
Edward Hands
UK News

Christian retailer urges customers to 'please come back' as shops reopen across England

by Heather Preston

A Christian business owner has encouraged people to "come back" and support local businesses that have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of high street shops re-opened for the first time in nearly three months on Monday, as part of the Government's plans to come out of lockdown.

The Entertainer is the UK's largest independent toy retailer, with more than 170 stores.

Founder Gary Grant tells Premier that the lockdown is the first time he's had to close its shops since the business started 39 years ago.

"In those early weeks [of lockdown], I wasn't sure whether or not our business could actually survive. But the government brought in furloughing and the rates holiday, and then we went through a radical cutting of costs within our business and qualified for a business interruption loan. So, I'm feeling much more confident about the future."

Retailers have had to introduce strict safety measures - including customers only touching items they are going to buy, 2 metre distancing, contactless payments and hand sanitising upon entry and exit.

All of the Entertainer's England stores have now re-opened to the public. Grants says that while this is a "day to celebrate", he recognises that there is still some apprehension. He says staff and customer safety remains his top priority.

"We are working hard with our staff to make sure that they're comfortable with coming back to work. We've had to regulate the number of people in store, we've got boxes on the floor to create zones. We've put screens on the tills to protect staff and there's signage up in the windows.

"We don't want a second wave. So we must make sure that what we're doing is not driven by commercial need, it's driven by safety need. So we're creating a balance between the two."

Customers are being encouraged to go out and spend whilst being "sensible" in their approach, as the Government seeks to start reopening the economy "gradually and carefully".

It comes after a recent YouGov poll suggested less than half of people feel comfortable returning to clothes shops while only 48 per cent thought they would be able to maintain a two metres gap between themselves and other shoppers.

Grant says he doesn't expect his stores to "go back to normal" any time soon but has encouraged consumers to begin returning to the high street.

"It's really critical that people use their local businesses, if they value their local high streets, please use us. The internet is not the answer to all of your problems, so please come back. Right now we need people to support their local communities as we try and save our businesses."

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