June 1, 2020 2:41:14 PM
Thousands of customers queued for hours in searing heat to have the chance to shop inside an Ikea store for the first time since lockdown in March.
The homewares giant reopened its doors at 19 sites across England and Northern Ireland on Monday morning, with new safety measures in place and limits on the number of customers allowed in at any one time.
In Tottenham, north London, shoppers arrived before the 10am opening time and queues snaked around an inside car park.
Social distancing “wardens” wearing masks patrolled the area, guiding people around a one-way system, and making sure they kept two metres apart. Customers were then let in 10 at a time.
One shopper said he had queued since 10am, waiting until 1.30pm before he was allowed in.
Another, Jack Parkes, 33, from Edmonton, north London, said he had queued for two hours before buying a dressing table and some mirrors for his daughter’s room.
“People will probably think I’m mad for bothering, but to be honest it’s another reason to leave the house after being told to stay inside for so long.”
He added: “It was a clean and safe environment for people to shop in.”
Belfast also saw some large lines. Two customers, Samantha Fisher and her daughter Atlanta, from Groomsport, near Bangor in Co Down, queued from 8am in order to shop for a bedroom they wanted to furnish which had lain empty for weeks during the pandemic lockdown.
Prior to reopening, Ikea bosses said wardens will patrol stores to help shoppers and ensure they keep their distance from each other.
Families are banned, with the business saying it will only allow one adult and one child per household inside the store at any one point.
The 19 stores reopening are Croydon, Greenwich, Lakeside, Wembley, Tottenham, Norwich collection point, Birmingham, Nottingham, Belfast, Manchester, Warrington, Gateshead, Leeds, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Reading, Southampton, Bristol and Exeter.
The Coventry store did not reopen and will remain closed permanently.
Play areas and restaurants will stay shut, but Ikea insists its popular meatballs will be available in food courts to cook at home.
Bosses had previously asked shoppers to “come prepared with ready-made lists and own bags” for the reopening.
Click and collect facilities are also opening in a phased approach and in line with Government guidelines, with Ikea saying this will depend on which UK region stores are in.
Extra hand sanitiser and more deep cleans of bags, trolleys, bathrooms, equipment and touchscreens will take place.
Cash will not be accepted, with all payments by card or contactless device only, and customers should avoid travelling to stores just to process refunds because Ikea says it has a 365-day returns policy.