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'Delighted to see you!' – local businesses welcome back customers as Covid lockdown eases

By Alan Beresford

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THERE was a sigh of relief from businesses and customers alike when non-essential retail emerged from lockdown.

April 26 signalled the biggest relaxation of the rules since the third lockdown came into force on Boxing Day.

Joining shops and a host of other firms welcoming customers through the door was the hospitality sector, including pubs, albeit with many strict rules applied.

For pubs, this means it is back to outdoor service only until hopefully a further relaxation of the rules on May 17.

For one Buckie pub, the Harbour Bar on Main Street, the customers have been champing at the bit to return whatever the weather.

Laurent Sausset, who runs the bar, said: "It's a huge relief to be open again.

"We were very busy on Monday when we reopened.

"The weather wasn't the greatest but that didn't seem to bother people, it was great to see our customers again.

"During this lockdown we've done a lot of work on the beer garden, including putting in new tables and seating; we've had a lot of positive comments.

"One of the biggest challenges of the last year has actually been keeping up with all the regulations and reminding ourselves and the customers what those are.

"There're a lot of grey areas."

Also glad to be open again is Buckie Community Shop.

Store owner Jane Murray said she was delighted to see both the customers and the store volunteers again.

"It's great to be back up and running," she continued.

"With the lockdowns we've been closed just about as long as we've been open since we started here in October 2019.

"We had to do a bit of work refreshing things as the last time we were open was Christmas Eve.

"The customers have been really good and it's been steady throughout the week.

"We've welcomed back our previous volunteer team and some new ones so we're actually up to capacity at the moment."

Mrs Murray went on to say that donations were always welcomed with items of furniture in particular being sought.

The reopening has marked a change of tack for Buckie Community Shop in terms of helping the community. Initially it had been envisaged to support local good causes by means of grants generated from the store profits.

However, efforts are now directed at lending a helping hand to groups and individuals on an ad hoc basis, for example running raffles or helping source goods.

Mrs Murray added: "If you think we can help, please get in touch.

"Everything is done in the strictest confidence and if we can help, we will."

Customers to Moray Reach Out's (MRO) HQ on East Chruch Street were in for a pleasant surprise, with the Yarns and Crafts section on the ground floor having undergone a revamp which has made it brighter and airier as well as improving the flow of shoppers round the aisles and displays.

Also reopening in the building was the Thrift Shop and the spinning and upcycling section.

Suzanne Gray, the Yarns and Crafts team leader, said: "The customers have been delighted to see us back and we had a bumper day on Monday when we reopened.

"Our trainees have really been missing coming in and meeting the customers so they were very excited at the prospect of us reopening. They've all had a turn on the till, which they enjoyed.

"We've got five trainees returning plus a new one starting. Also, we have three retail assistant trainees who are here for six months as part of the government's Kickstart scheme. We're giving them a wide range of experience which will hopefully come in useful when they are looking for a job.

"It was easier preparing to reopen this time than it was last summer as we'd already done most of the work.

"We're very optimistic about the future and are looking forward to further relaxations of the Covid rules."

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