Shoppers flocked to Gloucester city centre to the delight of traders and business owners who opened for the first time in over four months.
Traders hailed the day as “absolutely magical” after months of financial worry and uncertainty, since the nation entered its third national lockdown in January 6.
A coffee shop manager even described the busy day as “weird” and “a bit strange” as he was taken aback by all the customers visiting once again.
The nation entered Stage Two of the Covid-19 lockdown-exit roadmap today (April 12), allowing non-essential businesses like shops, gyms, hairdressers, pub and restaurants to reopen.
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The reopening of shops saw crowds of people flock to Debenhams and Primark. Queues to Debehnams by Kings Square, stretched all the way down to The Chambers Pub for the company’s closing down sale.
Independent traders also experienced busy mornings, with customers venturing in to Eastgate Market.
Aladdin Kay owns Aladdins Cave and said: “Today is absolutely magical. As one of the dwarfs said to Snow White ‘I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go’.
“I have got my own Snow White at home who has been making me do so much work at home unpaid!
“The past four months have been trying. It has been a long four months with lockdown and bad weather and everything closed.”
Zouhaier Kahla, owner of Kalamata Ethena Shope, who sells marinated olives, houmous and other vegan delicacies was also happy to get back to work.
Zouhaier said: “I am very, very happy but a little bit sad because of the death of Prince Philip. I am happy because I am starting back at work.
“I am not lazy, I do not like staying at home, I need work! I need work to live, no money no honey.”
Customers were seen approaching Zouhaier’s stall and saying how much they missed him.
“For the past few months, I have been staying at home helping my wife doing the garden and painting the house.
“I have been very worried because all the money I saved I have spent.
“The grant was not enough because I needed new stock. With all the new stock I had to get, it was like starting a new business.”
‘Hard and very difficult’
On streets outside the shops, busker and singer Daniel Maartell also relies on the city centre being busy.
The 24-year-old from Linden, says he can earn between £80 and £250 a day singing to shoppers.
Daniel has been on Universal Credit for the past four months as he was “quite stubborn to get a job because I know I’d just quit,” and he did attempt to busk during this time but to little success.
Daniel said: “It’s good to be out today as all the shops are open. Just knowing that it is going to be a lot busier, there is going to be a good chance of me making some money again.
“During lockdown, it had been hard and very difficult. I always rely on people being out. I was out a few times during lockdown but you’d have to be out for quite a long time to earn any money as not many people have been out.”
“I have managed to scrape by and keep it together,” he added.
Cafe manager Benny Andrew said serving customers again felt “weird” and “a bit strange” who was taken aback by all the returning customers.
The 43-year-old works at Cafe Tucci in Gloucester Docks and has managed the cafe for four years.
Benny said about serving outside: “It is a bit strange, the customers being in and out but it has been going smoothly.”
The system in place is for customers to queue inside to the counter to place their order and then either return outside to sit at their table or to leave with their takeaway order.
He added: “Today it has not been bad. It started okay, it then slowed down and now it has started getting busy again.
“It just feels weird. It feels like being back in to a rhythm again. It is is like being back in to some sort of normal.
“It is good to see people back in and happy. I have been getting the same vibe from everyone, all of my customers. I am pleased to see them back.
“I have not been up to a lot for the past four months. It has been tough, exercising and all that.”
Butchers Steve Brewster and Andy Bowley are back to working a full week after working in a van in Westbank Car Park during the weekends and other places during lockdown restrictions closed their butchers.
Andy said: “We are glad to be open to serve all our regular customers. Nice to get back to some sense of normality. This is going to be the new normal for quite a while.”