SHOPPERS and pub-goers headed back to the town centre yesterday as the second national lockdown was lifted.
Swindon’s Tier 2 status meant all non-essential stores were allowed to reopen for the first time since November 5, along with pubs, restaurants, personal care businesses and gyms.
It might have been a cold Wednesday morning but eager buyers waited outside fashion and jewellery stores from 9am.
The most popular was Primark, where the queue snaked away from Regent Street and down College Street.
The high street favourite has extended its opening hours in the town centre from 8am to 8pm to try and reduce the size of the crowds that were seen at the end of the first national lockdown.
One shopper, Jenny Simmonds, said Primark was one of her main reasons for coming into the centre.
She said: “I’ve been doing Christmas shopping – it’s the only day I’ll be doing it.
“Primark doesn’t do online so I was after some stocking fillers for my kids. I save up all year and get vouchers.
“There are only certain shops you can spend those in and there’s not that many places in Swindon to use it.
Jenny added that shopping in-store is more convenient than online.
“I don’t mind online,” Jenny added. “But it’s waiting in for it. If I know it’s coming at a certain time on a certain day then it’s fine.”
Jenny fears numbers in the town will grow as the countdown to Christmas continues.
She added: “It’s going to be too busy and I don’t really like doing it. But it’s got to be done.
“I came in a few weeks ago and it’s just a nightmare. I’m done, if I don’t get it today I’m not getting it.”
Many others the Adver spoke to were making the most of early morning shopping.
Chris Hicks was in the town centre after dropping his children at school.
He said: “I need to get our Christmas shopping done and online is a bit dodgy – you want to see what you’re going to get.
“I think people will be using this month to come in and get their Christmas shopping done, with online you’re just guessing.
“I’m expecting it to get busier throughout the month, which is why I’m in today.”
Sarah Frost added Christmas would the big driver for most coming into town despite the social distancing measures in place.
She said: “I dropped my daughter off in school and figured I’d just pop in before it got too busy.
“I bought some Christmas bits and some socks, it’s mainly Christmas why I’m here.
“I don’t know if it’s good that the shops are back open but it’s got to happen, so long as everyone stays safe and socially distant it’ll be fine.”
With hairdressers and barbers allowed to reopen, people were keen to make up for lost time.
Ali Shaw had been waiting to get her haircut before the second lockdown came into force.
She said: “It was a quick ‘I need to get my haircut!’.
“I was caught unawares by the second lockdown, I thought it might come in but couldn’t get it booked in time.
“I’ve been waiting for six months, I couldn’t wait any longer.
“It’s a feelgood factor, it’s bad enough being stuck indoors 24/7.
“You can’t go anywhere or see anyone so at the end of the day it’s just the little details that makes you feel good.
“Today I’ve had my nails done and I’m getting my hair cut, I feel like a new woman.”
Pubs and bars are allowed to reopen as long as a ‘substantial meal’ is being served – although there remains confusion among the public about exactly what that constitutes.
Rachel Mapson had just visited Wetherspoons pub the Sir Daniel Arms.
She said: “It was busier than I thought, there was a lot of people there but I suppose it’s the first day of it being open again.
“It’s the novelty of it being open again and being able to go out and sit in somewhere to eat.
“Everyone was staying at their tables and ordering from the table and they’re following all the measures.”