Hundreds were pictured queuing outside IKEA stores all over the UK on Monday as lockdown rules were eased.
Huge traffic jams were reported as swarms of shoppers, some of whom had waited from 5:45am for the stores’ 10am opening, lined the parking lots in sweltering heat.
Non-essential retailers across England have reopened for the first time in 10 weeks following Boris Johnson’s announcement of easing measures on Thursday.
Furniture giant IKEA has reopened 19 branches. Limited numbers of customers are allowed inside at any one time and only one adult and one child per household are permitted at each visit.
Protective screens have been installed at checkouts and only cashless payments are being accepted.
Play areas and restaurants remain closed, but the retailer is offering takeaway hotdogs, burgers and its famed Swedish meatballs from its bistros.
Other measures to ensure safer trading during the coronavirus outbreak include “social distance wardens” to help shoppers navigate a new one-way system in the stores.
IKEA said its smaller high street stores would not reopen yet, and its outlet in Coventry will remain permanently closed with the potential loss of 352 jobs.
Peter Jelkeby, CEO for the UK and Ireland, said: “While the experience might be a little different to before – it’s the same IKEA.”
The company opted to close all of its stores on 20 March, along with many other homeware stores because of the coronavirus pandemic but items have been available to buy online, although with longer waiting times for delivery.
Mary Byfield, 49, began standing in line at 8am, outside the Wednesbury store in the West Midlands.
The mum-of-one, who’s been redecorating during lockdown, but came to IKEA to get some finishing touches said: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I arrived. I thought I was early but there was already a massive queue here.
"A couple of people had been here since 5.30am. It's madness really but everything has been orderly so far. The traffic around the area is a nightmare though.
Phillip Walker, 29, from Sneinton, Nottingham, waited for over an hour to get into his local store after queuing from 8.30am.
Walker brought along a camping chair as he knew he would be in for a long wait.
"But it's been orderly chaos so far, I'm not sure if that's all going to change once I get inside,” he said.
"It's taken well over an hour to get near the front of the queue. I just want to get in and out now – but not before I've bought some meatballs."
As well as furniture stores, car showrooms and outdoor markets are also among the retail businesses allowed to ope.
Many primary schools have also reopened, with children in reception, year 1 and year 6 allowed to return to the classroom on Monday.
Many however have been kept at home by worried parents amid concern that it might be unsafe for children to return to lessons.
Schools also remained open throughout lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Primark also announced on Monday its plans to reopen all 153 of its English stores on 15 June.
The retailer, owned by the Associated British Foods, previously disclosed that it had lost £650m for every month that all stores were closed during the lockdown.
A spokesman told Drapers: “Nothing matters more to us than the health and wellbeing of our employees and customers.
“That is why we will only reopen our stores in the UK once we are convinced that it is safe and right to do so. We are closely following all safety advice from government and will treat this as the minimum standard across all our stores.”
Primark said it would introduce physical-distancing protocols in its stores, with all employees to be offered personal protection gear, including masks and gloves.
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