Optician in Shepton Mallet prepares to reopen after keeping an eye on key workers in lockdown

  Posted: 22.05.20 at 13:12 by Tim Lethaby

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An optician in Shepton Mallet High Street is stepping up preparations to fully reopen next month, after looking out for key workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Christopher Young Opticians are hoping to open for simple retail operations in June, but in the meantime have been busy with sight emergencies and providing glasses for key workers during lockdown.

Christopher said that his shop hasn't fully closed at any point, but is operating a locked door policy for the safety of staff and customers.

He told Shepton Mallet Nub News: "We have been available for ocular emergencies, either for a phone, video or if required a face-to-face consultation, as well as essential eyewear, such as providing glasses for key workers, all the way through lockdown.

"It’s much safer to see clients in our locked, quiet practice rather than a busy A&E department. We have a hotline to the eye consultants in Bath Royal United Hospital so we can always refer to them for advice if we are concerned.

"There is a possibility that we will be allowed to open for simple retail activities such as new spectacle sales and sunglass sales in June, and if we are, we will review the demand and unfurlough team members as required.

"We are currently open during our normal hours of 8.45am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

"However, as we have to operate a locked door policy it is imperative that clients phone us first to arrange a suitable time to visit.

"If we are busy the call will be picked up by our off site team who will forward an email to us and we will normally respond to that within 30 minutes. We will do everything we can to maintain the safety of our clients and team members."

Christopher says that, as the crisis hit, NHS England and the government told them they had to close for routine services but they had been making preparations beforehand.

"The writing was on the wall and we were already taking pre-emptive action such as fitting eyewear when it was chosen rather than booking a collection appointment two weeks later like we normally do," he said.

"That way once we were locked down we were able to post out the eyewear rather than forcing the client to wait until the lockdown was lifted.

"Even now we are not allowed to fit spectacles so we have a list of clients to contact when we are able to get back up and running to refit their eyewear."

The business first opened in Shepton Mallet in October 1986 and Christopher was originally manager but bought the business in 1988.

It has operated continuously from the same premises since then, although the internal layout is unrecognisable today from the original.

Christopher says the businesses in Shepton Mallet High Street have been working extremely hard during the lockdown, doing their best to provide services during very difficult circumstances.

He said: "I had a long chat with Nick from Denela's, the bakers opposite us, and he was doing his best to maintain what business he could – again operating a locked door policy like us.

"He has been baking throughout but reduced trade means it is difficult to pay the staff, and if they are furloughed they can’t do any work so the lion's share falls on the owner. So it is difficult but has to be done.

"My Coffee Shop have also done well to keep going with their excellent social media presence keeping everyone informed of what they are doing.

"All business owners are guarding their cashflow but those that have managed to keep going and provide a service through this despite reduced income from sales deserve a mention, and a holiday."

And Christopher reassured Shepton Mallet shoppers that it will be safe to shop in the High Street once lockdown is fully over.

"Come back to the High Street when this is over," he said.

"We are all aware of what we have to do to minimise the risks so don’t be scared. We have some great businesses in Shepton High Street who look forward to giving you great service with a smile, even if it is behind a mask."

For everything you need to know about Shepton Mallet and coronavirus, click here.

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