Lakeside Village round up of the year

Thursday 31st December 2020

As we prepare to say goodbye to 2020 our centre manager Di Rodgers looks back on what has been one of the most difficult year’s we’ve faced.
Where to start. This has been a year like no other. We’ve all been impacted by Covid-19 be it through loss of a loved one, catching the virus, keeping away from those close to us for fear of spreading the virus and learning new ways of being, from wearing a mask when we are out and about to socially distancing.
Here at Lakeside Village, we’ve had to close the centre twice this year as England went into not one, but two periods of lockdown. That was hard. It was hard to say goodbye to our customers and to all of the teams who work in our stores.
But when we reopened, both times, we saw glimmers of hope, we’d put in lots of extra measures, socially distance signage, extra hand sanitising stations, queuing systems and the introduction of face masks (who would have thought 12 months ago that we’d be wearing a face covering when we were shopping). The glimmers of hope we saw was in the return of our customers. They came back to the centre, they followed the one-way systems, they were kind and considerate as they shopped.
It has been sad to see that so many well-loved, household names in retail have been affected so badly by the impact of the virus that they’ve closed their doors for good. The impact of this will be felt for years to come.
Being closed in the run up to Christmas will again have had a huge impact on the retail stores and their ability to trade. Some offer online facilities but many, in outlet centres do not.
We had a big debate in our centre management team about what we should do about Father Christmas, we are after all a family centre and our events and activities are well loved in the town.
Last year we had our first ever Father Christmas experience and the feedback from our customers was wonderful. The plans had been to build on this and go bigger and better this year. But it just didn’t feel right. We’d done so much to keep people safe and put all the extra measures in and we didn’t want to get it wrong now. After much discussion we decided that we had to have Father Christmas visit us, our customers and their children deserved a bit of Christmas magic. So we put on a totally free socially distanced photo with Father Christmas opportunity in the two weekends before Christmas and during Christmas week. He was simply fabulous and the feedback we had from customers brought tears to our eyes.
While this year has been one that I’d never want to repeat there have been some reminders of what really matters, three things stick out to me. Community has never been more important. We work closely with our local community and the charities and schools that surround us and now more than ever those relationships matter. Kindness has been seen in so many places, from people donating to replace the laptop our charity of the year founder had stolen in a burglary, to people shopping for others and checking in on neighbours. Finally hope, hope for better times, hope for people to stop catching the virus, hope for a vaccine and hope for time with our loved ones again.
As we head into a new year, we are filled with hope, our local council said to us all, Let’s do it for Doncaster, and Doncaster, together we did.