From brand new layouts to private shopping experiences, these shops are going all-out to help you get back to what you know and love.
From the greatest department stores to tiny independent treasure troves, shops across Leeds have flung open their doors to welcome you back. But what’s it really like to hit the shops in this ‘new normal’ and what can you expect from your next shopping spree? Wonder no more, as these five lovely Leeds retailers let you in on all the secrets. #WelcomeBacktoLeeds
As Leeds’ oldest record store, Jumbo has been proudly independent since 1971. Needless to say, they know better than anyone that securing a slice of music history is a pleasure worth lingering over – that’s why they’ve updated their layout to keep visitors safe as they track down a treasure. “We had to move a lot of the racks around,” Shop Manager, Adam Gillison told us. “We turned them all around, so customers aren’t facing each other if they’re browsing.” With a handy map in the window to display the new layout, you can get clued up before you even step inside.
Endless rows of vinyls, books, CDs and DVDs, meant it was a painstaking process that required as much mental effort as physical power. “The way we’d organised the shop had been very carefully planned, and to try and move all that in a way that was safe, but also made some sort of common sense, was quite an undertaking,” Adam explained. The Jumbo team are nothing if not dedicated, so they hunkered down and created a brand new one-way system. Now you can hone in on old favourites and delight over new finds without compromising on personal space.
“We’re probably fairly conservative on the number that we allow in, but we wanted people to feel comfortable.” And comfortable they are. Feedback from returning customers has been great. With friendly (and music mad) staff always on hand to share their ever-brilliant recommendations, it almost feels like old times. Except now, a click-and-collect service offers even more flexibility, plus you can book a visit outside the usual opening hours if you want the shop all to yourself.
Marks & Spencer
A one-stop-shop for fashion, food and homeware, the four-storey Marks & Spencer in Trinity Leeds has always had size on its side – a quality that’s more valuable now than ever. While behind the scenes the staff have been busy slathering on sanitiser and tweaking the layout, for you the visit feels reassuringly familiar. “We’re able to offer a really normal shopping experience,” explained Store Manager, Claire Cunliffe. “We do have a maximum capacity in the store, but we actually haven’t got to a point where we’ve reached that. The benefit for our customers is that, unlike some other shops, they’re not having to queue with us.”
At a time when change is the norm, this consistency has led to many happy customers. “A lot of our feedback has been that it’s actually a much more pleasant experience because it’s that little bit quieter, even on a Saturday afternoon when traditionally it would be very, very busy.” It’s a welcome slice of normality, complete with a recently re-opened cafe and toilets. But of course, you’ll find necessary changes too, like fastidious cleaning measures, fewer seats in the cafe and plenty of staff on the shop floor to point you in the right direction.
As an essential retailer who remained open through lockdown, Marks & Spencer has had plenty of time to get things right. With each of the four floors fully open, all till points in use and a popular click and collect service in action, it’s easier than ever to pop by and pick up a treat. There’s even a new 35-day returns policy (14-days on sale items), so you’ll have no trouble bringing anything back if it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Yep, they really have thought of everything.
As you might expect from a luxury department store that’s home to all manner of high-end goodies, Harvey Nichols has gone all-out to keep you safe. Whether you’re after designer clothes, the biggest beauty brands or premium food and wine, you can make the most of their top-notch knowledge with a personal shopping experience in your very own private suite. That’s right, kick back with a coffee and let their fashion insiders bring your wish-list straight to you. You won’t have to lift a finger and there’s no minimum spend – shopping doesn’t get much more special than that!
Just want to have a browse? No problem. One-way systems, directional signage, sanitisers, protective screens, enhanced cleaning measures – you name it, they’ve done it. “Because this is a more luxury experience, it’s slightly slower paced compared to the high street, so we can really maximise on that one-to-one contact,” General Manager Sally Lackey told us and it’s a personal touch their customers have missed. “People have been keener to compliment than complain, which I think may be because they’ve missed that human experience.”
Want to find out if the store is busy before your visit? Hop onto the website’s chat support and you’ll be routed straight through to a local adviser. Found the perfect garment and can’t wait to try it on? Every inch of the fitting room is sanitised between customers. Feeling peckish? Their Fourth Floor Brasserie is back open with a sumptuous menu and the same dedication to keeping you safe. In fact Harvey Nichols are such leaders that they’ve joined forces with other local retailers to share their expertise and help shoppers feel confident in returning to the city.
The Plant Point
The Plant Point is a glorious, green-fingered oasis on the balcony of Leeds Corn Exchange and they know just how important caring for customers is. Only a handful of people can enter this horticultural haven at a time, so Co-owner Sonia Pounder is able to share her substantial houseplant smarts with even more customers than usual. “It’s completely different, but at the same time, there are moments when I wonder whether it’s not better,” she told us. “We have a bit more time with customers and I can actually get to all of them, help them choose and support them.”
Of course, at busy times that may mean you have to queue, but it’s worth the wait. Once inside you’ll find a jungle of gorgeous greenery – trailing monstera dangling from the ceiling, perky peace lilies and enormous rubber plants dancing round your ankles. It’s like stepping into a whole new world. Along with popular favourites and beginner-friendly plants, they also stock unusual cacti, rare philodendrons, self-contained eco-systems, potting mix and handmade ceramic pots. If you can’t find what you’re looking for? They’ll try to track it down and order it in especially for you.
This tiny wilderness has hand sanitiser at the door, plastic screens at the counter and staff decked out in PPE. “That’s the best we can do at the minute and we hope our customers understand. So far, they do,” Sonia explained, and she knows just how much this extra effort means to the plant-lovers of Leeds, especially now. “Plants make people happy and we tell them how to keep it alive. It’s rewarding, so people come back to us because they feel like this is something that helps them with their mental wellbeing, I guess.”
Welcome Skate Store
Having spent their 10th birthday in lockdown, Welcome Skate Store didn’t quite manage the big shindig they were hoping to mark their decade in business. But what a decade it’s been. Founded by a group of skateboarding friends in 2010, their unique blend of skateboarding obsession and unfailing friendliness has created a shop beloved by many for its state-of-the-art equipment, cool clothing and those all-important skate-friendly sports shoes.
More than just a shop, they’re a huge part of the city’s skating subculture, which has made social distancing a big adjustment. “Any skate shop is about human contact,” Co-founder Tom Brown explained. “People would hang out, it was as much a social place as a shop. It’s been sad to cull that, but it’s what needed to be done”. Yet amongst the necessary changes, opportunities have arisen. Expert advice is now available over phone and by email, as well as in person, and the website, which is chockablock with stock, is perfect for click and collect orders. They’ll get everything ready for you in advance, so you can whizz off into the sunset.
In-store, you’ll find the usual hand sanitisers and signage, but perhaps the biggest change is that only two customers can enter at once. The crowds may be gone, but you can be sure the same friendly faces still remain. “One of the advantages is that staff can dedicate a lot more time and attention to customers,” Tom told us. “We were worried to see how customers would react, but it’s them who’ve made it more bearable. I’ve been really humbled by how they’ve been so understanding, so patient.” And next year? You can bet their 11th birthday is going to be even more epic.