UK shopping outlet Bicester Village has sparked outrage among consumers, after flocks of crowds visited the centre on Monday on the first day of non-essential stores reopening.
After 80 days of closure due to the pandemic, pictures emerged online of swarms of shoppers visiting the discount destination and not taking part in social distancing.
A petition has since been set up, which has been signed by more than 5,000 people, to close the village until better safety measures can be introduced.
This is Bicester village but everyone’s sneering about people going to primark 🙄🙄🙄 pic.twitter.com/20qaWzDa1s— Nicky Brennan (@nickyebrennan) June 15, 2020
Bicester Village today .. zero social distancing!! Disgraceful pic.twitter.com/5ISLPmOvVC— Sallie Wright (@SCMWright) June 15, 2020
I don't know if I'm going crazy or not but after seeing how densely packed Bicester Village is with people who have gone shopping it is MADDENING that I still can't go home to Wales and see my family.— Hollie Bennett (@HollieB) June 15, 2020
Laura Wicks, who started the petition, wrote on change.org that she was “disgusted to see the hundreds of people squashed into the street like coronavirus never happened”.
She continued: “As a nation we are all still under the two metre guidelines and as a company, Bicester Village have a responsibility to keep its staff safe.”
According to the Bicester Village’s website the centre has a code of conduct asking all visitors to “respect a two metre distance, in line with the government’s guidance on social distancing”.
Value Retail, Bicester Village’s parent company, has been contacted for comment.
With the outlet home to more than 160 brands, many of them beauty stores, how would the decision to close Bicester Village affect companies that have only just started trading again?
Speaking to Cosmetics Business, L’Occitane’s Outlets & Regent Street Flagship Marketing Manager, Valentina Cavallaro, said the Bicester Village shop is one of its top performing UK destinations, and it has adopted stringent social distancing measures within its stores.
She said: “Whilst businesses maintain strict health and safety precautions in accordance with government guidelines to ensure the protection of our customers and staff, we see no reason why Bicester should close.
“We would reassess should this be compromised.”
Meanwhile, Rituals told Cosmetics Business prior to opening its store at the site it had spoken with Bicester Village in order to “safeguard the store with stringent measures that go above and beyond government guidelines”.
“We are very comfortable that we have put the necessary measures in place and enjoyed a brilliant day on Monday,” said Rituals’ Head of Retail James Martin.
“Our team managed capacity effectively, adhering to the new safety measures throughout the day whilst generating a fantastic performance.
“Our priority continues to be the safety of our own shops, staff and customers and we are committed to ensuring that, within Rituals stores, the necessary measures are adhered to.”
Bicester Village is still open for business despite pressures from consumers.