Covid: Queues as shops prepare for last-minute lockdown

Covid: Queues as shops prepare for last-minute lockdown

Shop owners are rushing to get orders out to customers and shoppers are racing to pick up Christmas presents as Wales heads into lockdown.

From midnight all non-essential shops will be forced to close as a Wales-wide “stay-at-home” lockdown begins.

Following the announcement at 17:00 GMT some shops have reopened and queues have formed outside.

But First Minister Mark Drakeford urged people “not to rush” on the shops.

“As we move to alert level four in Wales most shops must close but supermarkets will remain open, and click and collect will be available,” he said.

“The best gift we can give our loved ones this year is a coronavirus-free Christmas.”

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March many retailers have seen their doors closed for months on end under restrictions.

Following Saturday’s announcement shoppers were seen queuing down the road at toy shops in Swansea, and Llandudno.

In Carmarthenshire a number of independent shops reopened their doors after their usual closing time in a bid to get customers their presents in time for Christmas.

Before the new restrictions coming into force at midnight, many had been preparing for the last few days of Christmas sales.

The Welsh Retail Consortium said it understood difficult decisions had to be made to curb the spread of the virus, but the eleventh-hour lockdown would have “severe consequences” for businesses.

Sara Jones from the group said: “Faced with this news – and the prospect of losing £100m per week in sales for the third time this year – many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk. “The Welsh Government will need to offer additional and immediate financial support to help these businesses get back on an even keel – an extension to business rates relief in 2021 is the best place to start.”

When Mair Jones shut up her shop in Carmarthen on Saturday evening she went home for dinner ahead of an expected packed day of customers ahead of the Christmas break.

But just hours later, the owner of a children’s shoe shop was back in, rushing to fit infants with their first shoes ahead of the midnight cut-off.

“I was eating my supper and then I heard the announcement,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Ms Jones, who owns Esgidiau Cic Shoes, said she was inundated with calls from customers who were scheduled for fittings in the coming days and so reopened the shop, with customers bringing in their children in their pyjamas.

“I couldn’t leave children without shoes over Christmas, especially now it would be nice for them to go out for walks,” she said.

“It’s my first year of business and we have had to shut three times already, it’s been a massive blow, and there was no warning this time.”

At Jackie James fashion boutique in Carmarthen, staff were preparing for customers to pick up thousands of pounds worth of orders for Christmas when lockdown was announced.

“The lockdown is needed to keep people safe, but don’t give me 30 seconds notice,” said Eurig Lewis, speaking from the store after opening until the cut-off at midnight.

“Worse than that it is OK for those who have millions of pounds to spend getting all their Christmas presents in one hit, but a lot of people have been buying them over months.”

Mr Lewis said the store had been bombarded with calls from customers asking if they could pick their orders up, so he decided to stay open until midnight to try and give people the chance to get their presents.

He said retailers had been struggling due to the repeated lockdowns and restrictions for months, but that they would “try” to help customers all they could.

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