Many shops are closing their doors for four weeks, as England enters a second national lockdown. In June, when stores reopened after the spring national lockdown, we spoke to shoppers about the first thing they bought. Now we’re back at the same shopping centre – centre.mk in Milton Keynes – to see what people are stocking up on this time.
“As soon as I knew about lockdown, I went into work on Monday and said ‘can I book off Wednesday because I need to go Christmas shopping’,” says Joanne Nixey, 28, from Windsor. She messaged her friend, Chloe Gould, straight away and the pair have been stocking up on Christmas presents and decorations.
“I love funky Christmas decorations so I got a rubber duck and a fish,” says Chloe. “It’s random. A cushion, some candles. I’m trying to get it all done.”
“It gets us out before lockdown,” says Joanne, pointing to her Primark bags.
Sue Stone also booked some time off of work to get the bulk of her Christmas shopping done. “Boris knew we had a day off, so luckily he moved the lockdown to Thursday,” she jokes.
“It’s just the last day before lockdown so it’s Christmas shopping,” says Sue, 52, a company director. She and Lorraine Stonell spent £130 at Hotel Chocolat, as well as bagging perfumes, toiletries and a hoodie.
“I have bought my coffee pods,” she adds, pointing to a Nespresso bag. “They are an essential, but the shop will still shut.”
“I got my work bonus so have come shopping,” says Phil Read, 47, from Bletchley. “Considering the situation, I’m surprised I got a bonus. I work for the government so a very secure job thankfully.”
In his shopping bags are clothes – “winter clothes, basically” – including sweaters, pants and some waterproof trousers to play football in.
He says the thought of lockdown “feels rubbish”. “I have actually got a week off work,” he says. “They are forcing us to use our holiday so I took this week off and have been doing all I can in these few days, cramming it in.”
“Everything’s half price,” says Jenny Holloway, 40, referring to the Christmas pop-up shop, where she and her mother Helen McGill bought reindeer decorations for £10 each.
“We are just mother and daughter”, adds Helen, “and we don’t get to spend that much time together anyway because of work, and thinking about lockdown we won’t be seeing each other. We are just trying to spend time together today before lockdown.
“It’s a happy-sad feeling. Happy that we’re out now, but sad for the people in shops. At 5pm the shutters are going to come down and when will they come up again? We were hearing whispers about furlough and I just thought it was really sad.”
Elizabeth Morris, 38, and her mother, also called Elizabeth Morris, managed to do all of their Christmas shopping back in September and they are now “just getting some little bits”.
“We have got some matching pyjamas, to wear for a whole month,” jokes Elizabeth, holding up the bedwear for her and one-year-old son George. “It’s that last opportunity to go to the shops. It’s our last hurrah. Last day before we’re grounded again.”
On the prospect of another lockdown, Elizabeth, 58, says: “We are positive about it all now. We look forward to reinstating our walks.” Her daughter adds: “It’s my mum and dad’s ruby wedding anniversary in November and we were going to Tenerife but can’t now. We are now finding other things to do to celebrate. We’ll find something.”
“There’s a couple of celebrations in our house at the weekend,” says childminder Rose Iroegbu, 47. “My son is 18 on Friday.
“I plan to cook his best delicacy, rice and stew.” She’s bought balloons and some surprise gifts for him (she can’t tell us what they are to risk spoiling the surprise) as well as a phone charging cable for herself.
“I feel a mixture of emotions” about a second lockdown, she says. “Worry and anxiety about the future.”
“I have done most of my shopping for Christmas,” says electrician Chris Locke, 41, from Luton.
“I have bought some stuff this morning and put that in my car. I can’t carry everything. I’ll be finished today, kids as well.”
Chris has bought some socks and slippers for his mother-in-law, plus some toys for his children, including Mario Kart Live and some Lego. “I’m fairly organised, like I always get stuff done before December. But more in advance this year.”
“They don’t send it out online,” says Sarah Bennett, talking about the six rolls of wrapping paper she’s just bought from Card Factory, which had a fast-moving queue outside. “With two kids you need a lot of Christmas paper.”
“We are just getting bits,” adds Sarah, who runs a cleaning business and has come shopping with her teenage daughter. “If I like it, I buy it. We got two standing Santas, reduced to £12.99 from the Christmas shop.
“We just came out for a mother and daughter day and we are going to TGI Fridays after.”
All photographs by Richard Cave and reporting by Francesca Gillett.