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Coronavirus: Family-run Bridgnorth shop installs screens at counter

By Rory Smith | Bridgnorth | Business | Published:

Customers at an essential goods shop in Bridgnorth will now be served behind plastic screens in a bid to protect staff and shoppers.

Sue Childs behind serving screens in Turners Top Shop in Bridgnorth

The owners of Turners Top Shop have spoken of the struggles they have faced in continuing to operate throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which has put increasing restrictions on the business and customers.

Paul Turner runs the store with his wife Janet - and introduced the protective screens in efforts to keep the shop doors open while reducing the spread of the virus.

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Having built the transparent barriers from scratch, Paul said he was "shocked" to learn some leading supermarkets were still operating tills face-to-face.

"It's a challenge for everybody. We're all having to rethink how we act to play the game safely," he said.

Owner Paul Tuner

"The screens came about because within day one of guidelines being introduced I thought, 'people just aren't getting this'.

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"They were approaching the counter and not giving staff the chance to stand back so I thought we had to get a physical barrier otherwise we would shut.

"So we went out and sourced plastic sheets and some timber.

"I'm no DIY'er but my wife and I dusted off the drill and got to work."

Becky Tuner behind serving screens in Turners Top Shop, Bridgnorth

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The five staff at the family-run store on Sydney Cottage Drive also wear gloves, frequently change them and are instructed to wash their hands every 10 minutes.

But amid the disruption, Paul admitted trade had felt the strain throughout the pandemic.

He said: "Business has been challenging, without a doubt. For the first two weeks of this we were playing catch-up with changing events everyday – whatever we did in terms of opening hours and staff rotas were obsolete within two days.

"Less people were coming into the shop and more were asking for home delivery and then at the same time it was vital to protect staff so we weren't able to replenish shelves with the shop open."

The business quickly introduced social distancing measures, which Paul said took some residents time to adapt to.

Turners Top Shop in Bridgnorth has installed serving screens to protect the staff and customers

"We've had a complete change around with how we operate. There was a little bit of opposition from people at first as they didn't understand what was happening," he said.

"We got in quickly and understood quickly the importance of social distancing and taking those safety precautions.

"A tiny minority didn't get it, but they do now and everyone's been really good."

One challenge which has altered supply lines in independent corner shops, right up to the big players in the industry, has been keeping the shelves stocked.

Sue Childs keeps the shelves stocked

"The supply job has been very hit and miss. As everyone knows, everyone went and shopped like crazy two-to-three weeks ago. Everything is available, it's just a matter of getting supplies through and at the moment we're seeing that as soon as have a shipment in, it's almost ordered before we have a chance to get it out and sell it properly," he said.

"We've tried rationing things out and we have a lot of elderly customers who we need to look after.

"We've also always done a delivery service for them. We've often taken one lady home, who's managed to come down the hill with an empty bag but finds the way home up the hill is a different story.

"We want to be here in 10 years time so we're looking out for our loyal, regular customers."

Sue Childs and Becky Tuner behind serving screens in Turners Top Shop, Bridgnorth

Paul added: "I'm hoping people will pick up on the changes we're making. I'm trying not to go out and about anywhere but it's a bit disconcerting when I see people seemingly not taking extra care.

"I went into a supermarket for one item we don't stock and I was shocked. There's nothing between you and the till operators.

"Our staff are really grateful for the screens. They've been amazing throughout. They've taken it all on board, they're quiet, pleasant, steady, everyone's been fantastic and I really cannot thank them enough."

Paul added that "when this is all done and dusted", the shop will close for a couple of days for all the staff to go "somewhere special".

Turners Top Shop in Bridgnorth has installed serving screens to protect the staff and customers
Rory Smith

By Rory Smith
Reporter - @rorysmith_star

Senior reporter based at the Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley, Telford.

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