THE Fairhill Shopping Centre is welcoming back customers to a ‘new normal’ with social distancing in place and numbers restricted.
Home to a number of popular stores including Next, New Look, H&M and Marks and Spencer, the centre manager revealed that capacity limits will be strictly adhered to and a number of measures have been adopted to keep people safe.
Sanitising stations have been installed, there is increased in-centre cleaning at key touch points, seating and play areas have been removed and a one-way system with crossover points and signage is in place to help customers maintain their distance from others.
In a press release sent to ‘Ballymena Daily’, Fairhill’s shopping centre manager, Natalie Jackson, said that although this has been an extremely challenging time for everyone, it was a relief to move forward to a ‘new normal’ and prepare the Centre for the return of customers as the go ahead to open was given by local government.
“The news yesterday, although very welcomed, was very short notice for our stores who will understandably need time to get organised before they return. Furloughed staff also require a minimum of 48 hours’ notice before returning to work. The full reopening of stores may take place over the next week or two.
“As a Centre, we’ve been planning and putting in place a number of measures to ensure that we can open safely and securely. To date, we have been operating with essential services like Marks and Spencer and Specsavers.
“However, in moving forward we’ve implemented many new measures and we now need the public and our customers to work with us to adhere to these measures and ensure they stay safe. We would ask people to be patient and expect queues, both, into the Centre and into the various shops.”
In order to control the number of customers in the shopping centre, the centre’s management team has adopted an internal traffic light mobile application which will control the occupancy of the Centre allowing for social distancing.
When it is green the centre’s staff will inform customers that it is safe to enter, and on red, the staff will close the doors of the Centre to new customers.
Natalie continued: “Safety has been the highest priority in our detailed preparations to welcome our customers and employees back to stores. It is possible there will be queues into the Centre in order to maintain social distancing, as we will close the Centre’s doors when our occupancy rate is at full capacity, and then operate a one in one out policy. Likewise, it is possible that there will be queues into individual retailers and there will be a number of social distanced queue spots. If there are no spots we will be asking our customers to revisit the store until a queue spot becomes available.
“Information, including a detailed section on the new arrangements, will be on our website as to what are the likely quieter periods within the Centre. Our on-site centre management, security and sanitising staff will be easily identifiable with their hi-vis tops and will be on hand to offer direction, guidance and assist where necessary.”
While many retailers will open with various measures, the food court and coffee shops will only operate as takeaways.
Natalie continued; “The Centre’s food court will operate as a social distanced take away service only. It’s a one-way system and we’ve removed the seating and tables to access additional space for queuing. The coffee shops and eateries, like Starbucks and Greggs, will also only operate a takeaway service. Again, if there are no social distancing floor dots then we’ll be asking customers to return at a later stage.
“Our customers are going to find a somewhat different shopping experience in this ‘new normal’.”
The toilets on our ground floor will be open and will be operated on a one in one out policy with social distancing and enhanced cleaning in place. Lifts will operate a one person only policy unless there is a family unit.
“All of our measures are designed to safeguard the health and wellbeing of everyone in the Centre and to instil confidence to shop. We are looking forward to welcoming our customers back,” concluded Natalie.
More details of the Centre’s opening can be found online at fairhillshopping.co.uk
Stores opening hours can be found https://www.fairhillshopping.co.uk/store_directory/