Andy Hallam: co-owner, Hallams Grocers

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“Lockdown was pretty horrific.

“It turned our business upside down: people wanted home deliveries, so we had to create a website to manage that.

“The Barton family kindly let us use the Garage as a packhouse as we simply didn’t have the space in the shop to get the orders up while maintaining social distancing. We lost all our catering contracts as the businesses we supplied all closed. Because of supply and demand, prices rose, lots of products became difficult to get hold of. People were panic buying things like potatoes – it was a hard time for us all, really. Footfall dropped dramatically, but while we had far fewer customers, people were buying more, often shopping for shielding neighbours.

“I’d be working up to 9 pm, after being up since 4 am. We didn’t have a single day off – in fact, we worked Sundays for the first five weeks of lockdown to cope. We had – and still have – early morning slots for NHS workers.

“In the first few weeks, we had to employ a doorman – the first time Hallams has had a bouncer in 110 years!”

“Things feel like they’re slowly getting back to normal now. Home orders have dropped right off and people are coming in more, though as many office workers aren’t in Beeston, the lunchtime trade – they grab a sandwich from Boots, then see a punnet of lovely strawberries and buy then on impulse – has not recovered.

“We thought the social distancing rules would be a lot more difficult than they have been. Everyone seems to respect it. We’ve not had anyone come in causing trouble about masks, or anything. People police it themselves now as they have become used to having to queue outside, but in the first few weeks, we had to employ a doorman – the first time Hallams has had a bouncer in 110 years!

“It’s still difficult work.

“We have to clean down so frequently, and have to deal with new routines and habits, but there is a normality settling in.

“The new normal, as people keep saying.”

MT

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