'Light at the end of the tunnel': Upper Street shoppers excited to end lockdown
- Credit: Emma Bartholomew
"It's funny how excited we are for something as simple as the shops opening up, but we'll take what we can get right," said Mira Al-Jarrah, reflecting on the first day of non-essential trading after the UK's third lockdown.
"It's a nice change from the day to day of lockdown. The sun is out. Hopefully things are looking up and there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Monday saw non-essential shops open back up and hospitality businesses serve customers outdoors under the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions, as gyms and hairdressers also welcomed back clients after months out of action.
The Islington Gazette took a wander down Upper Street to check in with shoppers and traders on how they fared with their first day back.
Cristina Bruzzolo, the owner of women's wear designer boutique Colibri was "very happy" after welcoming more than 60 customers through the door on the first morning back.
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"It's been extremely nice to see customers again today, but a lot of people this week are still away because it's the Easter holidays, and I've received so many messages since this morning," she said.
Despite doing online sales, trade here has been down by 75 per cent during lockdown.
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"The customers we have like to touch the clothes and want a personal service. They aren't online shoppers. They don't like a cold approach. They want to see the person and be helped with the dresses," said Cristina.
"The lockdown has been quite a challenge, and we are very happy to be open again.
"Still," she added, "It's a bit of a struggle because we have people not listening when we ask them to use the hand sanitiser or to wear a mask, and we found it very difficult to enforce but we try our best."
The Gazette spoke with several shoppers on how it felt to be back out. One person said: "It's been lovely coming back down Upper Street and visiting the old familiar haunts and seeing a lot of the shops open and talking to shop keepers.
"We've been waiting so long to do it. It's been a nice buzz, and thankfully the weather has been in our favour."
Another person called it "really strange but really nice" and noted how "emotional" it had been to see people out and about.
They added: "We are so used to not being able to go out, and so yes, I'm really happy that things are starting to open again and hopefully we don't go back into that restrictive lockdown again."
Rosie Emery was feeling more apprehensive about the situation however.
"I've been tentatively walking into a few shops to see how it felt, and they are pretty busy," she said.
"I walked out of one because I didn't feel comfortable to be around so many people in such an enclosed space.
"But it's nice that the streets are alive and there's lots going on.
"It's nice to do some window shopping but I feel like I want to keep my distance at the moment."
Mohammed Dehvari, who was helping his son in his shop Custom Made Furniture reported that trade there had been down 90pc during lockdown.
"We're not really busy today, but obviously furniture will be the last thing to buy," he said.
"We have support from our loyal customers who were waiting for us to reopen, and we've survived thanks to government support.
"We've not really had many orders today. Just one sale. That's it. Obviously we can't tell how it will go later on in the month. We've survived 20 years. We'll be able to survive the difficult circumstances," he added.
The Crisis charity shop opposite however was heaving with customers.
Manager James Gorrett said: "It's been really busy which has been promising and encouraging to see people coming back.
"Lots of people popped in to see us today, and I think we've sold about 150 pieces of clothing as well as some furniture and housewares.
"Across all categories we've been really busy, and the money goes towards helping the homeless.
"Our shops in Finsbury Park had queues all the way down the road.
"Donations have been busy all week. It's encouraging that want to drop things off to us, and everybody is really happy to be back in the shop.
"We play lots of soul and funk music so people sometimes decide to come in and have a bit of a dance as well which is really nice."