Shoppers return to Woking town centre

TOWN centre shops in Woking are reporting a steady increase in trade each week, with trading back up to 60% of their pre-coronavirus figures.

John Paul, Woking Shopping manager, said that there had been a pent-up demand for the reopening of some shops, such as Primark, which does not have a significant online presence, hairdressers and other and health and beauty outlets.

Woking Shopping manager John Paul Jackson in the Peacocks

While this reflected reactions of shoppers around the UK, he said there were several surprisingly busy shops in Woking, including Goldsmiths, the jewellers.

The Peacocks and Wolsey Place stayed open during lockdown because it includes shops such as supermarkets and chemists sell essential goods.

When restrictions were lifted to allow other shops to open, Woking Shopping, which manages both centres, has put in a range of measures to comply with regulations, but also make shoppers feel welcome.

“The aim is to make people feel at ease,” John Paul Jackson, “We put in plenty of signage to tell them what we have done and applied an antibacterial treatment to the common areas that lasts about two months and is then reapplied.”

As a result, there are now hand sanitisers at the entrances and other places around the centres and a one-way system for moving around the centre, with a clockwise route in the Peacocks. Meanwhile, markers have been put down outside shops so that people who are queueing can remain socially distant.

“We had to precure and install a large amount of signage at short notice. The rule is to keep left; it’s a bit like the Highway Code,” said John Paul, who added that most people were compliant with the regulations and security staff have been placed at strategic junctions for the small minority who need to be reminded of them.

He noted that one of the changes to the pattern from before coronavirus is that there is not the marked contrast in numbers during the week and at weekends and indicating that one reasons for this was the “eat out to help out” government-backed discount scheme. Along with this many people are still working from home.

Among new developments he said a gallery for the Woking Arts Centre is due to open in the Peacocks within the next few weeks. In addition, Boots and Specsavers are moving into new and larger premises and some of the empty spaces are under offer. There are also discussions with various community groups wanting space in the town centre.

John Paul has been involved with the Peacocks as the property manager for Savills, the estate and letting agents, for a number of years and has been based in Woking since 2014.

“Woking has such a positive future and the council has an excellent strategy for the town. I have been involved in retail schemes in other towns where this is not the case. In Woking, things get done,” he added.

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