Kuoni is to reopen six of its 29 stores next week with the remainder phased over the coming months.
The company said it planned a “cautious” reopening programme which would be led by demand and customer feedback and should see all stores open by the end of June.
The initial stores to reopen will be in John Lewis department stores based in Reading, Southampton, Norwich, London (Peter Jones), Cardiff and Chelmsford.
A further four stores will then open on April 19 and four more on April 26. These will include some of Kuoni’s biggest stores and prime locations, such as Sheffield, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Intu Metrocentre (Gateshead), Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent (pictured) and high street stores in Cheltenham and King Street, Manchester.
Andrew Fielding, retail sales development manager, said the firm hoped to have a good geographical spread of stores open by the end of April. The only area which will not have Kuoni stores open this month is Scotland.
The company will then “pause” reopenings to review the situation but hopes to be open a further nine in late May, to include Kuoni’s remaining John Lewis stores, such as London Oxford Street.
Fielding said: “I don’t think anyone knows what demand will be like. The first shops to open are a mix of our John Lewis stores and our largest shopping centre stores.
“We have a plan to open nine stores at the end of May depending on what demand is like and the feedback from customers. It’s led by our customers; caution is the right word to use. We need to be sensible and economic.”
The reopenings follow detailed and complex planning, which has involved new staff training and rota patterns, Covid compliance surveys on stores, and health and safety analysis.
Most stores will be open from 10am until 6pm but shopping centres are likely to be open later, until 9pm.
Fielding has produced personalised documents for each store to adher to once open, which include staff cleaning desks and chairs between clients and ensuring limits on customer numbers are kept to instore.
Fielding said: “There is a lot to think about. We have procedures in place so the stores are sanitised each day by staff and we have got cleaners each day. The logistics have been complex, even down to the signage that we put in the stores.
“We have hand sanitiser dispensers and face masks for customers, and we are asking staff to wear a mask in store. We don’t have screens on the desks.
“We are unable to offer drinks to customers but I am eager to bring that back as soon as we can.”
Some of Kuoni’s 84 retail staff will remain on flexi-furlough. There will be 20 staff back at work on April 12 in the initial six stores.
Fielding added: “There will be a phased return of staff. I have tried to cover our busy times when demand is there.”
In general, staff are excited to be coming back to work in shops, he added. “There has not been a lot of push back from staff not wanting to go back into the working environment. I’ve had more questions about public transport. Overall there is a sentiment of excitement tempered with what is demand going to be like,” he said.
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