Chief thanks shoppers for supporting Sunderland's high street as droves #SupportLocal on reopening day

Sunderland City Council’s leader has thanked shoppers for supporting the high street as non-essential retail firms begin to reopen this week.

Monday, 15th June 2020, 6:25 pm

Non-essential shops have been closed since the UK went into lockdown in March in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Following new government guidance, shops can now open their doors subject to a Covid-19 risk assessment and social distancing measures to protect the public.

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Shoppers out in High Street West today

On Monday June 15, hundreds of shoppers flocked to Sunderland city centre as shops reopened for the first time in months – with huge queues spotted on High Street West.

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Graeme Miller, has described the response as “fantastic”.

With lockdown measures continuing to ease and stores beginning to reopen, it’s fantastic to see our residents showing their support for the Sunderland based businesses that have fought for survival throughout this pandemic,” he said.

“We have worked closely with the Business Improvement District, The Bridges and other members the city’s Recovery Task Force and retailers to put measures in place around the city centre to keep us all safe.”

Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller

Measures have included signage, social distancing and safe queuing rules, hand sanitisers at the entrance to The Bridges and recorded messages reminding people of the need to socially distance.

The council itself has also brought in further changes including the removal of some seating, the introduction of one way systems, temporary traffic measures and road diversions.

Adaptations to the locations of bus stops have been made to allow people to queue for shops, wait for public transport and safely pass eachother.

Meanwhile, Vine Place and Holmeside have also been made one way westbound with an eastbound contraflow cycle lane.

Council leader, Graeme Miller, stressed that businesses have also played a key part in adapting to the coronavirus lockdown.

“Life under lockdown has taken its toll on the majority of our key industries – none more so than the hospitality and retail sectors and ensuring they make it through this crisis and continue to create the vibrant and dynamic high street we all want to see in Sunderland, relies on residents shopping local,” he said.

“We know that many of the city’s independent businesses have worked tirelessly to adapt during lockdown – some continuing to provide the essential products and services which so many of us rely upon, and others operating online in order to stay afloat.

“Many essential stores introduced the most stringent of social distancing measures to ensure residents could continue to purchase their everyday wares and many of the best-loved retailers in the city started selling online to ensure that – while their physical store was closed – they could continue to trade.

“We’ve seen many businesses go out of their way to introduce dedicated shopping hours for the elderly and our frontline workers, ensuring that those who were most susceptible to the virus were given ample opportunity to shop in the safest possible environment.

“Their efforts to support people through this tough time have been tremendous, and we owe it to the companies we have in the city to support them now they need us most.”

Coun Miler added: “However, while it’s important to continue supporting our local businesses, it’s also vital that we do not lose sight that we remain embroiled in a fight against this virus – and it is a fight that is far from over.

“While we encourage people to lend their backing to traders, it’s essential that we all continue to observe the social distancing rules and remember that the advice remains to stay at home as much as possible to help control the virus and save lives.

“The safety and well-being of people from the city remains our upmost priority.”