By Colin MacGillivray

CITY of Whittlesea businesses have described their ‘sheer delight’ at being allowed to reopen last week as part of the State Government’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Hospitality businesses are again allowed to seat patrons rather than operating on a takeaway-only basis, while retail stores have welcomed back customers.

Although limits to the number of customers allowed in a venue are still in place, most business owners have been ecstatic at being able to serve customers in person.

Whittlesea toy store Charlie Horse Toys owner Nicola Bloodworth said the response of the community had been ‘amazing’ since the store reopened its doors last week.

“With the lockdown it was really slow and very quiet. It was hard work,” she said.

“I’m lucky that I started my business online, so I had to go back to all my online customers and get back into the swing of being on the online side of things.

“Opening back up last Wednesday was a bit daunting because I was used to going into work and it just being me on my computer with no customers, but as soon as I had a few customers I was back in the swing of it.

“It was amazing. It was such a nice vibe. Everybody was so happy to be out and be able to browse.

“Online shopping is not a proper substitute for being able to come into the store. You can see it and you know what you’re getting.

“Being a toy shop, being able to reopen before Christmas is amazing.

“Everyone needs Christmas presents, because the whole world is uncertain at the moment.”

Mernda Junction Shopping Centre marketing manager Yvette Switalski said the centre’s retail and hospitality businesses were thrilled to welcome back customers.

“We’ve been very lucky that our customers have supported us incredibly,” she said.

“Even during lockdown, everyone kept coming all the time for their food shopping and their takeaway, whether that was in person or via Uber Eats, which all the retailers got straight onto.

“Since last week, the barber has had queues and queues and queues.

“We’ve put on some extra cleaning to help with the traffic flow of so many people who are excited to be able to go shopping.

“The Tatts outlet was one of the ones that couldn’t open during lockdown, and they’ll be very happy to be open now because it was a big request from customers all the time.”

Ms Switalski said the centre would run Christmas competitions and giveaways to support retailers, with $5000 worth of vouchers to be won by the public.

“We didn’t lose any of our retailers during this lockdown, and that’s only because of the customers supporting them,” she said.