On the day the UK government allowed all non-essential retailers to reopen, London’s financial district was eerily quiet.
Everywhere in the City of London and Canary Wharf there were no long queues, no anticipation for Black Friday, coming through the doors when they opened, and no problems with the items on offer. In fact, it was so quiet that customers were often numerically below the sales women.
Just steps away from the Bank of England, the Louis Vuitton store in Cornhill opened with newly introduced precautions to protect customers and employees. Only four shoppers can be allowed into the store at a time and each must be accompanied by a personal assistant.
However, some of the necessary precautions disrupt the luxury shopping experience associated with such a high-end retailer. Upon entering, customers must thoroughly wash their hands with a hand sanitizer. However, this means that they must not touch any of the designer handbags or purses on display for at least five or ten minutes. It turns out the alcohol in the hand gel can damage leather, said Louis Vuitton’s account manager Amanda through a white face mask.
The rest of the shops on Cornhill will remain closed. A row of empty artisanal bakeries, perfumeries, and restaurants with closing signs in the window politely explain government restrictions or warn potential thieves about vigilant surveillance cameras.
A sign at the entrance to the luxury event space Camm & Hooper reads: “For you naughty burglars, the only things that still work at this venue are our video surveillance and alarm systems. We removed all of our stocks and cash, as well as anything else you might want. “Over on Fenchurch Street, Marks & Spencer kept it simple and went with” We don’t leave cash in our coffers overnight. “
According to a 2019 study by the local government agency City of London Corporation, there are 1,150 units dedicated to retail outlets on Square Mile. There are now over 300 shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and services in Canary Wharf, according to the Canary Wharf Group. Similar health and safety regulations are in place at the area’s mall, which is adjacent to the JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and KPMG offices. Black dividing lines separate shoppers in line to get into each store.
Visitor numbers are much lower than before, said Crockett & Jones salespeople George and Zach. “It’s like it’s 9pm on a Sunday,” said George. To protect customers from the virus, Crockett & Jones does not measure a customer’s shoe size to avoid physical contact. It also quarantines all shoes that have been tried on in the store for 48 hours after disinfection.
Urban tailor Roderick Charles faces the same distancing issues. Customers must wear protective face masks, use hand sanitizer. When things get busy again, they have to queue outside to manage the number of people in the business.
When his colleague sourced a dark blue jacket for the store’s first customer in over three months, Schneider explains to Naveed that he feels safe at work as the majority of his customers are regular customers with whom they have already built trust.
However, it becomes difficult for the tailor when the pants need to be shortened as it requires much closer treatment than trying on jackets.
“It’s a little government gamble that allows us to [non-essential retail] to open again, ”said Naveed. “But it has to start sometime.”
A few blocks away is the once bustling city hotspot Leadenhall Market.
Just three months ago this was the hangout for fresh fish and chips and a quick 30 minute retail therapy session. Barbour, the classic British brand best known for their waxed winter jackets, is one of the few stores open in the abandoned market today.
Two tourists pushing a buggy stand under an empty archway, which is traditionally full of vendors in suits, discussing offers for pints from the Lamb Tavern. You pause to talk about what the city’s landmarks to see – it’s a good time to see the skyscrapers and St. Paul’s Cathedral as it’s free from the hordes of financial service providers.
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Emily Horton