An Aberdeen department store will reopen today – with shoppers being warned of an all-new experience which could last until Christmas.
Fears had been raised that John Lewis may not reopen after it was announced several branches across the UK were closing as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
But today, the Aberdeen store will throw open its doors to shoppers – who are being advised that social distancing measures are likely to remain in place until Christmas.
The store is the last of three outlets to reopen in Scotland as part of a phased return with branches in Glasgow and Edinburgh being accessible since July 13.
Hand sanitiser stations will be dotted around the shop and customers are being encouraged to wear their face covers and follow the two-metre rule.
Protective screens have been installed at till points, and customers are being urged to pay by card instead of cash to help deter the spread of Covid-19.
Branch manager Jamie Wishart hinted that social distancing measures could remain in place until December, and said: “It is very difficult to look ahead and to Christmas but I do imagine some of the measures will be in place for the foreseeable future.
“A lot of planning has gone into making the store a safe environment for our customers and partners.
“Our aim is to be the safest possible retailer in Aberdeen and I think we can achieve that by following advice from the Scottish Government.”
He added: “The business throughout has kept to a safe not fast approach with phased reopenings across the UK which has allowed us to learn from each wave.
“For Aberdeen, we have put all of that learning into place, that includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and customers, a two-metre social distancing rule and the reduction in face-to-face services such as personal styling and home design.”
Employees have been up-skilled and trained in a new hosting role to assist customers and reassure they are comfortable around the shop.
Fashion merchandiser Alison Bandeen said: “Hostesses will be operating on the shop floor to give guidance and help customers find the products they are looking for.
“Visually we will find it quite challenging wearing PPE but the team is learning how to direct customers with their hands and eyes.”
The 54-year-old, who volunteered at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary whilst being furloughed, believes she can bring new learning into her role at John Lewis.
She said: “We were approached by the NHS to volunteer at the children’s hospital and Foresterhill hospital including their outpatients and maternity wards.
“It was a very humbling experience and we learnt about health problems our customers might be experiencing.
“I think I am more sensitive to people’s needs and not to presume that someone can actually hear what I am saying and presume that people are comfortable walking into the store.
“I will be able to reassure customers that is it a safe environment and hopefully bring some joy to their shopping experience.”
The store opens at 10am with a special ribbon cutting. The first customer will win a prize.