RETAILERS need to give customers a compelling reason to return to normal shopping behaviour as they start to reopen again, the owner of a North-East fashion store has said.

Steve Cochrane, the owner of Psyche, which has branches in Middlesbrough and Durham, has also spoken about his "anxiety and excitement" about plans to reopen later this month.

The shops in Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough and Silver Street, Durham, have been closed since the end of March, when restrictions were put in place preventing non-essential businesses from operating.

Some non-essential retailers are allowed to open again from this week, with others, including high street shops, department stores and shopping centres allowed to reopen from June 15.

Mr Cochrane, who is planning to open his stores on June 18, said: “The main issue is going to be safety – making sure that all staff are completely safe and feel safe, but also that customers feel totally confident too.

“I am both anxious and excited to get back open. However, since we’ll have been closed for more than 12 weeks, it will take quite a while for the team to get back into the swing of things – and this will apply to customers too.

“They’ve been at home shopping online and that has become a habit for some, so we are going to have to give very compelling reasons to shop at Psyche that go way beyond discounting.

“I want to be very prepared as it will be vital to keep everyone safe and make a great impression.”

Psyche has been operating online only since the end of March, with most members of staff put on furlough.

A skeleton team have been working through the pandemic, using social distancing measures to protect the health and safety of workers.

Work is ongoing to try and safely reopen the shops in a couple of weeks time, including altering layouts, getting personal protective equipment (PPE) in place and installing hand sanitiser points.

Mr Cochrane said: “We are gradually de-furloughing staff and we have been carrying out extensive remodelling of the interior whilst closed and so our regular customers should see a real difference.

“We had an external company carry out a Covid-19 health and safety audit and we are installing till screens and placing distancing markers on the floor, plus there will be a one way system with an entrance and exit.

“It’s quite a big cost and naturally makes the store look cluttered, but safety has got to be paramount.

“We also have lots of gloves and masks and I have ordered visors for anyone who wants those too.

“We have also purchased hand sanitiser points and one will be located near the entrance, while there will be a regular cleaning routine.”

Asked about the government guidelines, he added: “I think that the government has been quite vague, but then they are making it up as they go along, just as we are.

"It’s all about being sensible and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

The Government has issued guidance on safety measures which should be implemented by those businesses which are planning to reopen their doors to the public.