Out and about on the high street after lockdown

Our Senior Rehab Officer Simon has already published blogs and videos about coming out of lockdown, regaining your independence, and understanding COVID-19 regulations; now Mark from our Digital Team has ventured out and about on the high street to look in more detail at some of the changes that shops and services have put in place as part of the post-lockdown 'normal.'


Lots of blind and visually impaired people have told us that they feel very anxious at this time, wondering how the high street may have changed and how the shops have responded to ensure your experience with them is safe and sound.

So I thought I’d try and help by venturing out around Greater Manchester with my camera and notebook, and feedback my findings! In order to understand how I chose which establishments to visit, it is important to note that there are three things that I genuinely hold dear to my heart:

  1. Eye Health
  2. Communication
  3. Beer

As such, here is an account of my visits to Specsavers, an O2 mobile phone shop, and a great public house in Wilmslow called Anthology…

Lockdown blog
Specsavers shop front

Specsavers opticians

I firstly visited the Specsavers opticians in Wilmslow, and can confidently say that they had very good processes in place.

I made an appointment and they called me in the morning to check I didn’t have any COVID-19 symptoms.  On arrival at the shop, they have installed a table, with handwash and paper towels.  If you enter the shop, staff ask you to wear a face covering or will issue you with a face-mask, and ask you to wash your hands with the gel provided. All staff are masked and gloved up.

I had my eyes tested and throughout the process we continued with the face-covering. I needed to get some reading glasses, so had to touch the frames in the shop (a lot of frames!) To ensure no cross contamination, they gave me a box to place all the frames in that I had touched, which were then cleaned at the end of my browsing.

As most shops these days, they prefer payment by card instead of cash, but there were no signs saying that cash was not accepted. Overall it was a great process, and I felt very safe in there – well done SpecSavers!

O2 store

Next I visited our friends at Mid Communications in Sale (an independent franchise of O2) – they too had a similar arrivals process, a polite barrier at the front door with a meet-and-greet policy. They can accommodate people calling into the shop on the off-chance, but do operate an online appointment booking process.

As with Specsavers, they are very strict with the number of customers they allow in the shop at once (which is a good thing!) They do offer you a mask, but it wasn’t mandatory during my visit (it was in mid July, but it is now mandatory to wear face covers in shops).  The staff wear face shields at all times during their consultations.

The shop was super-cleaned after each consultation, which included any handsets which were handled during the session. One thing to mention which we are seeing very frequently, is that the shop will not take cash.  If you can check out the establishment before you go online or calling ahead to ask about acceptable payment methods, or carry a credit/debit card if you can.

Overall, great processes in place, and I felt secure in the hands of very well-versed staff.

O2 shop front
Pub post-lockdown

Anthology public house

So, in the name of research, I’ve been checking out a few pubs, so I can give you a better understanding of what to expect!

The Anthology pub has various doors you can access, but they had locked all but two of their doors so that they can effectively operate a one-way system – basically, you can only enter from one door and exit through another.

At the entrance the pub operates a meet-and-greet system, so you can be shown to your table. I was asked for my name and contact number – not for marketing purposes but for a ‘new norm’ Track and Trace! I gave it up without any fight, as I’m very relaxed about such things personally. As I was escorted to my seat, pretty much everywhere I looked they were hand sanitiser gels and signs reminding people to keep socially distanced.

When I got to the table, I noticed all the tables had a “I Am Clean” sign on there, which was immediately taken away once I sat down; a member of staff advised me that it is how they keep track of the tables that need cleaning after each use.

This bar, as with all that I have visited of late, doesn’t allow orders to be taken at the bar. All service is delivered to your table, which is great for me as I’m invisible at the bar and never get served! I do hope table service continues when we get back to some normality.

I’m a bit like the Queen, as I never carry cash, so I paid by card. This pub does take cash though. Some pubs have an app, so you order and pay for your beer and crisps online, which I thought was pretty cool (but I know this probably isn’t for everyone).

Further support

To summarise, a great, well-thought out and executed response by these three local establishments. In general, I feel that the attention to detail regarding the ‘customer’ has never been so great – so venturing out and getting back on it could be well worth the effort!

If you need any advice or assistance to help you get back out confidently and independently after lockdown, please get in touch with us as we are here to help.  Call us on 0300 222 5555 or email info@henshaws.org.uk

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