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    After 86 long days of coronavirus lockdown, get ready for the sales of the century

    Hooray for the return of the High Street: As shops open on Monday after 86 long days of coronavirus lockdown, get ready for the sales of the century (and here’s our pick of the bargains)

    • Lorraine Fisher shares her fashion tips for the return of the high street tomorrow 
    • Stores are having to implement strict new measures to combat coronavirus
    • Fisher tells how to shop like a pro and what the hottest trends for summer are
    • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

    Finally it’s here! Tomorrow morning, hundreds of branches of high street shops across the country will be throwing open their doors for the first time since the lockdown began in March.

    At long last, we can start getting back to some kind of normality and wander once again around some of our favourite shops, seeing all the beautiful clothes, shoes, toys and household goods we’ve been missing so much.

    And there’s even more fantastic news for eager shoppers – thanks to lockdown, we’re set to see the sales of the century.

    Millions of pounds of goods have been sitting untouched in our high street stores for three months and it’s all got to go.

    Retailers are set to discount prime items by up to 70 per cent to make way for the new stock and autumn/winter collections that are due in soon.

    At long last, we can start getting back to some kind of normality and wander once again around some of our favourite shops

    Fashion expert Eliza Scarborough says: ‘We’ve never had this before – there’s a whole season of clothing in each of the stores that they’ve got to shift.

    How to shop like a pro 

    1. If you’ve seen something online but couldn’t buy it because it was sold out in your size, try calling your local store. They might have it, as the same stock has been sitting there untouched for months.

    2. Browsing in store is going to be difficult, so go in with a plan. Not only will this help you target the right areas of stores, it will stop spur-of-the-moment purchases you later regret.

    3. With fitting rooms closed, minimise mistakes by working out what shapes suit you before you go. If you see that shape on a hanger, you’ll know it suits you. Don’t be afraid to buy two different sizes if you’re not sure, then take back the one that doesn’t fit.

    4. If the store you want to go into has a long queue, use the time to discover new shops. And check out stores you can’t usually afford – reductions may put their outfits within reach.

    5. Think about buying school uniforms now. By the time most schools go back, children will have been off for nearly six months, so avoid the bunfight for new outfits come late August.

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    ‘And it won’t be just the drab bits no one wants that are discounted. Instead, it’s the entire season because the timing of lockdown meant stores had to close just after taking delivery of all the new spring/summer ranges.

    ‘So all the best items that would have flown off the shelves within days in March if they’d been open are still there and should be in the sales – and we haven’t yet reached the height of summer.

    ‘So look out for pretty summer dresses and nice shorts that you can wear for drinks in friends’ gardens and picnics, rather than bikinis and cover-ups like kaftans for the beach as you probably won’t be going on holiday this year.

    ‘And don’t worry if your favourite local store isn’t one of those opening tomorrow. When they do open, it will all still be there to buy.’

    But while it’s possibly the greatest time ever to grab a bargain and update your wardrobe, shopping won’t be quite the same fun as it used to be.

    Stores are having to implement strict new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, such as limiting the number of people allowed inside.

    ‘I’d liken it to using the food shops that have remained open,’ says retail expert Clare Bailey. ‘We’ve got to expect to queue outside, one-way systems, limitations on what we can do within the stores, signs telling us don’t touch, clean your hands, and so on.’

    Alison Grainger, head of clothing and home retail at M&S, says: ‘In store we’ve replicated measures we know have worked in our Foodhalls – from queuing on arrival to limit the number of customers to Perspex screens at till points. We’ve also added some new measures such as installing hand sanitisers at our entrances.’

    So what can we expect from our ‘new normal’ shopping experience?

    First, not all branches of all stores are opening tomorrow. Many chains have chosen to stagger their openings, starting with just a few. If all goes well, they will increase numbers over the next few weeks.

    ‘We are taking a cautious and gradual approach to reopening,’ says Naomi Gillies, of John Lewis, which will see just two stores – Kingston and Poole – operating tomorrow.

    ‘We will be closely monitoring the effectiveness of our measures.’

    The Arcadia group, which owns high street favourites Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Topshop, is altering opening hours so that staff don’t have to travel during rush hour.

    All are reducing the number of customers allowed inside for social-distancing purposes, so expect queues – you may even have to wait your turn to get into certain parts of the store.

    Many larger shops with multiple doors will have just one or two open to help control the number of people inside.

    Expect hosts to meet you as you enter to explain the new set-up, to have to follow one-way systems marked on the floor, and to wait longer for lifts as only one person or a family will be allowed inside at a time. In fact, most shops are encouraging customers to come alone.

    You will still be able to touch the goods but there may be fewer things to buy as many stores are removing racks to give more space for social distancing.

    Fitting rooms will generally be closed (some, including Reiss and Hobbs, are planning to keep theirs open), as will cafes and toilets.

    In-store services such as bra fittings and make-up trials will also be suspended for the time being.

    Tills will look different too – staff, all wearing PPE, will be behind Perspex screens and some stores are only accepting card payments rather than cash, with contactless preferred.

    Retailers are set to discount prime items by up to 70 per cent to make way for the new stock and autumn/winter collections that are due in soon

    Retailers are set to discount prime items by up to 70 per cent to make way for the new stock and autumn/winter collections that are due in soon

    Many that have closed their fitting rooms have lengthened their exchange times – M&S will now give you 60 days to return an item. For goods returned to the store, most are following Government guidelines and quarantining them for 72 hours.

    Shopping centres are also restricting the number of people allowed to enter, so expect queues to get in at busy times.

    This may mean waiting at the main doors or at the entrance to a car park – parking will also be limited, with some spaces closed off.

    Expect one-way systems of movement, plenty of hand sanitiser stations and for seating areas to be closed off. Food courts will also be shut, although some restaurants are doing takeaways. Many malls, such as Meadowhall in Sheffield, are opening their toilets but with an enhanced cleaning regime.

    So enjoy your shopping for bargains – but expect queues and an awful lot of cleaning wherever you go!

    Build a capsule wardrobe

    Our days of relaxing at home in comfy loungewear are coming to an end – soon we will all desperately need to put a bit of polish and sparkle back into our wardrobes.

    But with money tight in many households since lockdown and with so much on offer in the shops right now, just what should you be buying to take full advantage of this year’s incredible summer sales?

    Rather than buying dozens of items that will languish sadly in your wardrobe, I would recommend concentrating on building up a capsule wardrobe of just a few key pieces that can be worn anywhere.

    Here are my highlights of some of the best bargains on the high street that will see you safely through summer and beyond…

    Rather than buying dozens of items that will languish sadly in your wardrobe, I would recommend concentrating on building up a capsule wardrobe of just a few key pieces that can be worn anywhere

    Rather than buying dozens of items that will languish sadly in your wardrobe, I would recommend concentrating on building up a capsule wardrobe of just a few key pieces that can be worn anywhere 

    The sundress 

    Perfect for days out in the park, the cap sleeves on this lightweight summer dress are great for warm weather but also for women conscious about their upper arms.

    The dress is a terrific alternative to shorts, and because it’s a print, you don’t need to worry about accessories – just pop on a nice pair of flats and you’ll immediately feel more put-together.

     The Jumpsuit

    Don’t be scared of jumpsuits – they’re more flattering than you may realise, especially this one. The cape sleeves and flares will skim over your silhouette and make you feel really good. A one-piece simplifies getting dressed as you don’t have to worry about co-ordinating tops and bottoms.

    It’ll last throughout the season and beyond – even to Christmas parties. 

    The Sundress: Was £39.50, now £15, 63% off, M&S

    The Jumpsuit: Was £125, now £85, 32% off, Phase Eight

    The Sundress: Was £39.50, now £15, 63% off, M&S and The Jumpsuit: Was £125, now £85, 32% off, Phase Eight

    The co-ordinated separates

    It may feel bold to wear this blouse and skirt together, but split them up and you can create new looks with other items. Team the skirt with a black top and heels, or the top with jeans, capri pants or shorts, adding new life to the staples you already own. Spots are the new stripes, and they’re very flattering!

    The smart suit

    Perfect for feeling smart but comfortable thanks to the soft fabric. And so versatile – wear the full outfit or mix and match, teaming trousers with different tops, or pop the jacket on to smarten up. 

    The shirt dress

    A classic, hard-working item that you’ll be wearing for seasons to come. White brightens your complexion, lifts your mood and makes you feel fresh and polished.

    The flattering cut cinches in at the waist and covers your knees in a relaxed way, and the best bit is it will go with any colour shoe!

    The statement dress

    Put on this stunning red dress to feel glamorous for drinks or a barbecue. Ruffles and wide straps make you feel covered up and comfortable, and you can wear it with flats or heels. Less out of your comfort zone than you think!

    Thanks to the post-lockdown savings, this statement dress was £399, now £199, 50% off, from Whistles

    Thanks to the post-lockdown savings, this statement dress was £399, now £199, 50% off, from Whistles

    Summer trends 

    Most of us follow fashion by seeing what’s in store and what others are wearing, but that’s been impossible recently. So what IS in fashion this summer?

    TAILORING: A big trend – and it’s not just suits but shorts suits. A Bermuda short is cut a little longer and is more flattering.

    PUFFED SLEEVES: Another big story. Broderie Anglaise is a lovely fresh take on embroidery.

    POLKA DOTS: They’ll be everywhere, but this classic print now comes in different colours and styles.

    STATEMENT NECKLACES: Finally say goodbye to dainty necklaces and make a statement in a single collar necklace.

    COLOUR: Whatever you buy, make sure that it’s got a pop of strong colour – if you’re bold enough, even neon is in.  

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