Psyche owner Steve Cochrane has revealed his “anxiety and excitement” as his Middlesbrough fashion store works towards a post-lockdown reopening.
As with all non-essential high street stores, Psyche’s well-known Linthorpe Road store and another in Durham were forced to close their premises to customers at the end of March.
Since then they’ve operated only online, with only a skeleton staff operating at social distances, with most of the Psyche team furloughed.
Now, following government guidance, the store is set to reopen on June 18 but managing director Steve has revealed the huge challenges involved in ensuring customers and staff feel safe to visit – and getting shoppers back in the swing of a store visit.
“The main issue is going to be safety – making sure that all staff are completely safe and feel safe, but also that customers feel totally confident too,” admitted Steve.
“I am both anxious and excited to get back open. However, since we’ll have been closed for more than 12 weeks, it will take quite a while for the team to get back into the swing of things – and this will apply to customers too.
“They’ve been at home shopping online and that has become a habit for some, so we are going to have to give very compelling reasons to shop at Psyche that go way beyond discounting.
“I want to be very prepared as it will be vital to keep everyone safe and make a great impression.”
Steve says much work is going into preparations for a safe reopening.
He said: “We are gradually de-furloughing staff and we have been carrying out extensive remodelling of the interior whilst closed and so our regular customers should see a real difference.
“We had an external company carry out a Covid-19 health and safety audit and we are installing till screens and placing distancing markers on the floor, plus there will be a one way system with an entrance and exit.
“It’s quite a big cost and naturally makes the store look cluttered, but safety has got to be paramount.
“We also have lots of gloves and masks and I have ordered visors for anyone who wants those too. We have also purchased hand sanitiser points and one will be located near the entrance, while there will be a regular cleaning routine.”
Asked about the government guidelines, he added: “I think that the government has been quite vague, but then they are making it up as they go along, just as we are. It’s all about being sensible and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”