AS non-essential retailers reopened today for the first time in months, a slow trickle of shoppers returned to the streets of Oxford.

Though the day got off to a slow start, by mid-morning socially-distanced queues began to form outside some more popular shops, including Primark and Zara at the Westgate Centre, and Blackwells on Broad Street.

Markings stencilled onto the city centre streets by Oxford City Council over the weekend told people to stick to the left hand side of pavements in a one way system.

ALSO READ: Calls for Bicester Village to close as crowds flock to reopened shops

While it was largely successful, a few shoppers were completely oblivious to the new slogans on the floor.

The easing of lockdown was also the first time people from different households appeared to meet up with one another.

Oxford Mail:

Shoppers at Westgate. Picture: Ed Nix

Outside the Westgate, two women met for what seemed like the first time since the end of March.

As they said hello, there was a brief moment where they hesitated, unsure how they should greet one another, before a long-overdue hug, in spite of current guidance.

They then walked off together, as if having never been split apart, comparing their summer footwear.

READ AGAIN about what plans have been put in place for the city centre

On Cornmarket, another pair of friends met: a cyclist called after a woman, before he slowed to catch up in the shade of St Michael’s Church.

The covered market also reopened, with limits on the numbers of shoppers who can enter, only two of its entrances open, and stewards in hi-viz vests, and masks on the gates.

Inside, shopkeepers were cautiously optimistic about coming back to their trade, as visitors tried to follow the ‘One Way’ arrows on the floor.

Oxford Mail:

The covered market reopened. Picture: Ed Nix

Steven Morris, a butcher at the market, said he was relieved to be open again.

Mr Morris said: “For me personally, it was great for the first few weeks being at home, but then when you’ve painted your fences and done the garden, boredom sets in.

“We have had people in four times a week to do deliveries, but it is good to be open again. I can’t say either way if it will be busy straight away yet though.”

Fellow marketeer Fran Chadwick of Ben’s Cookies, was also glad to be back.

But Ms Chadwick said: “I think it is going to be quiet for a while in the market, mainly because of the limit on the number of people coming in.”

ALSO READ: Westgate Centre social distancing: Can I go to the toilet?

Outside Blackwells bookshop on Broad Street a long queue had formed before the doors opened.

In the queue was Phil Hormbrey, a doctor at the JR, who was keen to see the shop reopen.

Dr Hormbrey said: “I just love books and I missed Blackwells. I am here to support a local business. I’ve been buying from them online, but is is not quite the same as visiting them.”

The doctor added it was good to see a return to ‘some sort of new normality’.

Oxford Mail:

Street furniture is being regularly cleaned. Picture: Ed Nix

Charlie Bush, assistant manager at the bookshop, said its three floors had been rearranged to help shoppers keep at a distance.

City council leaders have said that plans for the move out of lockdown are very much a work in progress.

Tom Hayes, coucil deputy leader, said no one has ever ‘exited from lockdown before’ and added the authority was open to suggestions on its plans via a feedback form.

Back on Cornmarket Street, a busker had returned after months away to sing soul favourite ‘Stand By Me’.

After a while, he disappeared, likely moved on as all designated busking spots in the city are currently suspended.

And while the two-meter rule remains in place, it will be a while yet before anyone can truly stand by one another.