How Lakeside and Intu shopping centres will look when they reopen including heat trackers to control crowds


PACKED shopping centres are likely to be a thing of the past when non-essential retailers open next week, with footfall sensors and heat trackers being used to monitor customer numbers.

HOAR has been given exclusive access to Lakeside in Essex to see what changes you can expect.

Intu shopping centres are reopening on Monday, including this one in Lakeside, Essex

Non-essential retailers will reopen on June 15 – almost three months after they were ordered to shut by the government due to coronavirus.

These include shops that sell clothing, kids’ toys and electrical goods.

The majority of Intu shopping centres, of which there are 20 in the UK including Lakeside, have remained open but with only around 10 per cent of stores inside them operating.

By this Monday, Intu expects 90 per cent of the 250 retailers in its centres to be open again albeit with reduced opening times of 9am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sundays.

You may have to queue when you arrive, although footprints on the floor show shoppers where to stand

But be careful to check new shorter opening hours before heading down

Previously it opened 10am to 10pm on weekdays, 9am to 9pm on Saturday, and Sunday opening hours remain the same.

Shops, including shopping centres, will also have to ensure they follow the government’s strict social distancing rules to keep people safe.

When you enter Intu Lakeside, you’re greeted by a member of security who will answer any questions you have about the new safety measures.

They’re also there to control crowds should customers have to queue to get inside.

Intu couldn’t tell us how many customers it’ll allow in before it reaches capacity but security knows when to ask shoppers to wait as new footfall sensors at entrances will keep tabs on how many people come and go.

When you go in you’ll notice hand sanitiser stations, as HOAR reporter Levi Winchester shows here

As well as counting people going in and out these footfall sensors monitor where people are inside of the building.

If you think about how much bigger a shopping centre is compared to a supermarket, it makes sense to have this technology in place. 

Howard Oldstein, centre director of Intu Lakeside told us: “When visitors arrive at site there will be four triggered doors that will be operational. 

“There may be some queues as you come into the shopping centre, and we appreciate that, however at every entrance we will have a security presence and some customer service personnel that will be able to assist with any needs.”   

These footfall sensors monitor where people are, as well as the numbers going in and out of the shopping centre

You’ll see these sensors around the shopping centre as shown here by Howard Oldstein, centre director of Intu Lakeside

Once inside, like supermarkets, a one-way system has been introduced and is marked on the floor to help control the flow of people.

There are even “roundabouts” at the end of the mall so shoppers continue to follow the path around without turning directly back on themselves.  

Shoppers will also be expected to use new hand sanitiser stations, which have been dotted around the shopping centre.

I’ve missed being able to shop in Primark or Zara, and being inside a mall gave me a sense of normality.

There will be one-way paths created throughout shopping centres

People will be warned to keep at a distance on escalators

But as you start to walk through, you’ll notice how seats have mostly been removed outside shops to stop customers loitering – although some remain in case shoppers feel unwell and need to take a break.

It makes the inside of the shopping centre feel spacious and should give shoppers plenty of space to browse.

Shopping centre staff behind the scenes will also use heat tracking technology to check if crowds start to form.

Should they notice people gathering, they’ll be asked to leave.

There will be a sign telling people to follow Covid-19 guidelines inside

Posters also remind shoppers that anyone feeling unwell shouldn’t enter

Non-essential shops now have queue markers outside, which tell you where to stand while you wait to get inside.

For me, this doesn’t seem out of the ordinary anymore – in fact, I’d say it’s become normal to see lines of people outside stores.

In terms of social distancing inside shops, each retailer will have its own set of rules.

Each retailer inside the shopping centre will have its own queues marked outside

You’ll find posters outside stores which will tell you everything you need to know.

Other changes you can expect include some outdoor car parks being closed, although multi-stories will remain open so customers can queue inside in bad weather.

Signs in car parks also stipulate that only one person or one household can use lifts at any one time. 

The majority of seats in food courts have also been removed and at the moment, most food outlets are still shut although a handful offer a “grab and go” takeaway service.

“We’re all really excited about welcoming people back on the 15th and we hope our visitors are looking forward to coming themselves,” Mr Oldstein said. 

The majority of seats have been removed from shopping centres

I for one am looking forward to some form of normality with shops reopening, and it’s good to know that in large spaces such as shopping centres, measures have been put in place to stop crowds. 

If everyone plays by the rules, then we’ll all be able to happily shop.

For more behind the scenes stories on what retailers will look like after lockdown, check out how JD Sports is planning to reopen its 309 stores.

Primark, meanwhile, will have no testers, new contactless returns, and fewer tills.

And Coral is planning to install sneeze screens inside its bookies.