Stepping out, at last

Footloose Shoes owner Debbie Simes (right) and retail assistant Sam Edwards open their doors yesterday morning.

Footloose Shoes owner Debbie Simes was walking on air yesterday morning as she and many other Cambridge retailers opened their doors to customers for the first time in 26 days.

“There’s just a feeling of absolute joy amongst the retailers to be open and to actually be able to show people what we’ve got,” she said.

“I’ve got two staff members and we’re all pretty excited.  I think if you work in retail, you like interacting with people and we’ve been missing that interaction, that stimulation.”

Simes hadn’t been allowed to have shoppers in her store since October 7, when Waipa moved into Alert Level 3, and had been offering a click and collect service from a makeshift counter in her doorway until yesterday.

“To be fair we have received some support, and that’s been greatly appreciated, but it’s not the same as being open,” she said.

Her Duke St shoe boutique has taken a “massive” financial hit over the past few months.

“It’s huge and you never get that back,” she said.

“We’ve already missed two really important months of trading and with the borders still closed we’ve obviously still got a closed circle of customers.  So it is still a little bit frustrating because so much of our market does come from further afield than just Cambridge and Hamilton.

“The other problem we have is that a lot of functions still aren’t able to take place, so your normal work dos, Christmas dos, weddings are all on hold, and people are still working from home.  So there are still areas that are going to be difficult.”

However, right now she and other retailers are savouring the feeling of being back to “semi-normality”.

“Everyone’s got some gorgeous stock,” she said.

“The gift shops have got their Christmas things in and there’s lots of summer fashion arriving.  And it’s so hard for shoppers trying to buy things by looking through doors and even online.  People like to touch things and try them on, so having people in-store is huge.”

Simes thanked everyone who had supported her business through recent lockdowns.

“It’s meant so much to us,” she said.


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