Aberdeen took a huge step back to normality yesterday as the city’s shopping malls reopened.
The Bon Accord Centre and Union Square have long been a huge part of the city centre’s economy, but have been close for nearly four months due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Some shops with street entrances opened on June 29, but it wasn’t until yesterday that the malls were able to open in their entirety, to the relief of shoppers and retailers alike.
Though there had been some fears many would remain reticent about returning to shops, the Bon Accord Centre reported a “good buzz” and “positive atmosphere” on the first day back.
Centre manager Craig Stevenson said: “We were delighted to open our doors again to the public.
“There was a good buzz in the centre and it was fantastic to see customers coming out to enjoy everything the city centre has to offer.
“There was a really positive atmosphere and we are now looking forward to the weeks ahead.”
He added: “The safety of our community is our priority and we have taken several steps to ensure that customers and staff are kept as safe as possible.
“The centre has been deep cleaned prior to opening and an enhanced cleaning regime is in place.
“We are encouraging customers to keep two meters apart from other family groups and have a ‘keep left’ system in the mall.”
Bosses at Union Square were similarly positive, and said it was “brilliant” to be open for business again.
General manager Ryan Manson said: “It has been great to welcome back our customers to the centre today.
“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes for the past few months to get everything ready, and we’ve introduced a range of measures to keep everyone safe.
“We know this new way of shopping is going to take some getting used to, but it was brilliant to see Union Square and Aberdeen open for business again.”
Meanwhile, restaurant chain Fridays is to reopen its Aberdeen outlets on Wednesday.
The restaurants, at Union Square and the Beach Boulevard, will open their doors amid strict safety measures including advance booking, socially-distanced tables and queuing, sanitising stations and deep cleaning.
Fridays’ CEO Robert Cook said he was confident guests will feel safe at the chain’s eight Scottish restaurants.
“It feels great to be able to welcome our guests back into our Scottish restaurants from Wednesday.
“We are confident guests will feel safe when they dine in our restaurants thanks to our Covid-19 safety management measures that will safeguard our teams and our guests.”
And the restaurant at Dobbies Garden Centre in Aberdeen is also to open on Wednesday.
The garden centre itself reopened in May, and the popular restaurant can now reopen after satisfying Scottish government safety guidelines.
Dobbies CEO Graeme Jenkins said: “Following the successful re-opening of our garden centre on May 29, we are well-placed to restart our restaurant operations in Scotland.
“The safety of our team members and customers remains Dobbies number one priority.
“Not only do we want customers to feel safe, but we want them to have an enjoyable experience.
“We look forward to welcoming customers back into our Aberdeen restaurant and would like to thank our team members and customers for following the measures we have implemented.”
The retail sector comprises more than a third of all consumer spending in the UK, however retail sales fell sharply – by 37% – in the year to June.