A CLOTHING and homeware retailer has reopened two of its stores in the North-East as just twelve reopened across England this week.
Matalan on Neasham Road in Darlington and Bridge Road Retail Park in Stockton reopened as the retailer announced selected stores would begin to reopen from Monday.
The retailer, which had closed all of its UK stores almost eight weeks ago due to coronavirus lockdown rules, said it had reopened with 'enhanced health and safety measures.'
It said it was reopening stores following a change in Government guidance from May 1 which included 'Homeware' as essential retail in England.
But one passer-by said he had concerns over the reopening of the store in Darlington.
He said: "That store reopened today, I thought clothes stores weren't going to reopen just yet.
"There were a lot of cars parked there - but given the current climate, they (clothing stores) aren't really essential."
Matalan said the select few stores that had reopened would be 'fully compliant' with health and safety measures and social distancing rules.
A statement said: "Given the change in government guidance on 1st May to include Homeware as essential retail in England, we are now pleased to inform you that we are starting to reopen selected stores.
"Starting (Monday 18th May), following rigorous in-store testing and consultation with industry bodies, our colleagues and our customers, we will be opening an initial 12 stores in England.
"These stores will operate with enhanced health and safety measures and be fully compliant with social distancing rules.
"All employees have been trained appropriately and will be provided with mandatory PPE.
"We are very confident that these safety measures go above and beyond the guidance provided by the Government and Public Health England."
Matalan said stores would be reopening with large homeware departments and a click and collect service.
It said the twelve to reopen were all located in retail parks, with parking outside, which allowed customers to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Matalan said: "High street stores, stores in shopping centres, our clearance stores and our stores in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will remain closed.
"With our new safety measures in place, we are extremely happy to be back serving families across England, and look forward to welcoming our customers back into stores, and our colleagues returning from furlough.
"We are extremely grateful to all of our colleagues for their huge efforts in caring for our customers and the business, and to our customers for their continued loyalty to Matalan."