Kuoni is due to reopen six of its 29 retail stores on Monday as part of a phased return face-to-face sales. Stacey Owen, store manager of the agency’s branch in the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square, London, gives her views on returning to work in her store next week.

There is a team of four of us returning to work in our store on April 12; normally there are six. One of our staff is working from South Africa, she is stuck out there.

We are on countdown. I’m hoping customers feel the same. We have lockdown fatigue and are ready to go back and have that interaction with each other.

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I’ve been impressed with how well we can work collaboratively remotely but it’s not the same as sitting together. I’m excited to get back to that atmosphere with customers and the team.

But it will be weird going back and some staff are nervous. So much has changed in the last year.

It’s about having to keep up with all the travel advice and we are still going to be dealing with amendments. It’s getting tougher; people think we have more information than the media. They think we know all about vaccination passports, for example.

Only one of us has had the vaccine. We will have to wear PPE, including face masks, clean our desks between clients and spray down the chairs.

There will be two of us in every day and we’ll have signs to put up if we’re at full capacity.

We are working reduced hours as Peter Jones has reduced its opening hours. We’ll be open 10am to 6pm on Monday to Saturday in line with that and 12 noon until 6pm on Sundays. Normally we’re open 10am until 7pm and one day we work until 8pm.

I think people are desperate to travel. In the last two weeks we have certainly had some interest from regular clients in getting a holiday for next year. They are excited about being able to come in and talk about their holidays face to face and see pictures and videos of where they are going.

It’s a busy store and before Covid we had more walk-in customers than appointments. We will have to play it by ear.

I’ve made a decision not to commute to work on public transport; I’m going to drive until I’ve had the vaccine. It’s not ideal as it’s more expensive but I’m happier with that decision, I felt a bit panicky about it.  Two of my staff can cycle in.

As difficult as the last year has been I think it’s benefitted us as agents; people value our expertise.

The most important factor is we can sit down and engage with each other and with customers, which is why we do the job we do.

I can’t wait. I hope our customers will come back if they know we are there. I feel really lucky to be one of the first Kuoni stores to reopen.

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