THERE were long queues at branches of Dunelm in the North-East this afternoon - two days after the home furnishings retailer reopened all sites in England.

The retailer, which remained closed for eight weeks due to the lockdown restrictions, reopened all stores this week.

Dunelm had gradually begun to open some sites earlier this month after the Government allowed 'homeware' retailers to reopen with social distancing.

But despite being open since Wednesday, long queues have been constant at a number of stores in our region.

In Darlington's Morton Park store, customers could be seen queuing as staff remained at the door monitoring the continued flow of customers.

Our photographer Sarah Caldecott took these pictures in Darlington on Friday afternoon.

The Northern Echo:

Queues formed at Dunelm in Darlington Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Northern Echo:

Queues formed at Dunelm in Darlington Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Meanwhile this was the scene outside Dunelm at the Pallion Retail Park in Sunderland as customers waited their turn.

The Northern Echo:

Customers waited patiently in Sunderland Picture: JIM SCOTT

The Northern Echo:

The scene in Sunderland on Friday afternoon Picture: JIM SCOTT

A spokesperson for Dunelm said: "At the start of May, the Government gave their approval for homeware stores to re-open, but we've waited until we feel ready and confident in our safety measures.

"During this time we enlisted the help of experts from the NHS, Government and Trading Standards to advise us of what we needed to do to help everyone stay safe and well.

"As with everything we've done so far we have approached this carefully.

"We started by re-opening just a few stores in the Midlands first, then expanded to a group of 39 stores covering more of the UK. We are very happy to now be re-opening all stores in England and Northern Ireland. 

"Our stores in Wales and Scotland will remain closed in line with the guidance for those areas, but we hope that we’ll be able to welcome customers back soon. In the meantime, you can still use Click & Collect contact-free at our Welsh & Scottish stores.

"We know that many of you are looking forward to visiting your local store again, but we also understand that some people might feel uncertain about it.

"For those of you who feel more comfortable staying in your own space, we've introduced contact-free ways to shop, and with options that include deliveries to your car to virtual appointments with a personal shopper, we hope there's something for everyone.

"So we're back, we're safer than ever, and we can't wait to see you again soon.