By Katrina Ffiske, Assistant Features Editor 

Our features editor, Katrina, takes a walk down our local high streets.

The last week of June had a slight party atmosphere about it. People were allowed to meet in groups of six and shops began to open.

New Valley News went to find out how the shopkeepers were feeling about opening up to the public.

There was a stoic mood at Wilton Shopping Village and everyone was pleased to be back in business. Anne at Annie’s Wool Store has actually been up and running throughout lockdown, but now her doors are open and people can go back to buying wool. “It has actually been a good time for me,” Anne said. “Because of lockdown, people have looked for hobbies so have taken up knitting.”

Jayne and Kellie at Chalke and Chase support artisans, crafters and many small businesses. “We support about 55 traders and at these strange times it is nice that we can continue to support them,” Jayne said.  “People very quickly forgot to look at the arrows and went off the guided path, I had to keep reminding them which way to go. I think it might take some time for people to get used to being directed around the shops.”

Towns are well set up guiding people to keep 2 metres apart

Martin at Wilton Hardware said: “Many of our customers still want to stay at home so we are doing many more deliveries than normal. We have actually started a click and collect service; we arrange a collection time, customers come to the car park and we drop the goods straight into the car boot.”

In Salisbury, New Valley News found only about 50% of the shops were open. In those that were open, the staff were relieved to be back. Everyone was smiling and cheerful and no-one complained. The city is clearly signed with two-metre signs everywhere, and every shop has tape on the floor alerting you to ‘keep your distance’. Despite this “It is lovely how positive everyone is being,” said Jason at Regent Tailoring. “I was at work every single day. This is a family business’ and with the staff furloughed’ it was essential that I came in to keep the business ticking over. People would collect purchases from the door. The customers were so good to me, I actually sold three suits without them even being tried on!”

Jason at Regent Tailoring

One good thing that has come out of the lockdown is that Jason, Regent Tailoring, has formed a very good friendship with other family businesses: Casa Fina, Dinghams and Oso Boutique. “We all looked out for each other during this time and we want to continue this friendship over the coming months. Four businesses supporting each other can be stronger than one.”

At Forever England, Emily Jenkins was thrilled to be back at work. “We all had to have training before opening and we have altered the layout of the shop so that it’s easier for people to keep the two-metre distance from each other. On the first day, I was so pleased to see our regular customers come back to see us.”

Emily Jenkins at Forever England: happy to see regular customers back

The way we shop may well change. At Seasalt Cornwall you can ring and make half-hour appointments when you will have the shop to yourself and a member of staff to help you. There is no obligation to buy clothes. Or you can take clothes home to try them on and you have six months to return them.

HR Tribbeck and Son are inviting you to make appointment between 10am and 3pm. The high street jewellers were locked and you wait outside for them to come and get you.

Many shops have taken this time to do re-decorating and spruce up their shops. At Classical Beauty, Salisbury, Alice Kelly was redecorating the salon and changing all the furnishing from material to leather. “We realise that we needed furniture that is easy to clean.”

Jo at The Bay Window has spent lockdown time constructively: painting shelves and walls and cleaning every nook and cranny ready for welcoming customers back.

In Shaftesbury, the main high street has been pedestrianised to make it easier for people to keep their distance from each other.  Shaftesbury Arts Centre opens up on July 1 with a ‘Covid-safe approach’. The first exhibition is by a group named Creative and Brave which will run until July 14.

Among the positive chat are obvious concerns about the future. Speaking to Goldsmith, David McTigue, in Bell Street, Shaftesbury, he was very apprehensive about the future:  “Only half the shops are open at the moment,” David said. “I was busy the first day of opening but the rest of the week has been very quiet. I can’t see this picking up for months.” But there was still a determination in his voice.

Charity shops are all very keen to get back up and running. South Wilts Mencap Charity Shop, Salisbury, aims to be open at the beginning of July. “We have to change our stock from Winter to Summer,” Angela said. “Our shops are so full of items, it will take time to clean the space. Although all our volunteers are in the vulnerable bracket, they are all very keen to come back to work. Coming here can be a lifeline for them.”

Find out what more local businesses had to say about reopening here.