Welsh businesses remain closed as shops in England welcome customers back for the first time since lockdown

Credit: PA

As non-essential shops in England welcome customers for the first time since lockdown began, businesses in Wales are yet to learn when they will be able to follow suit.

Shops in Northern Ireland have been able to open since Friday, and the opening of stores today in England saw people queuing to shop for the first time in three months.

Shoppers are often quick to line up for Primark in Birmingham as restrictions eased in 2020. Credit: PA

Ben Roberts, who is MD of Clogau Gold, is opening four of his stores in England for the first time in months.

But his stores in Wales, stores he says are his most profitable, must remain closed.

''We've got seven shops in Wales which are currently closed.'' Ben said.

''Plus we've got about 200 stockists which are currently closed in Wales as well. So, there's a double impact there for us.''

Ben can reopen his jewelry stores in England, but his Welsh shops must remain closed Credit: ITV Wales

For Ben it is a relief that at least some of his stores can open today, which means his employees can go back to work.

''It's brilliant to get the team back on the shop floor.

''In the whole business, which is about 170 people, we've been operating with 15-20 people at head office.

''Gradually we're awakening and everybody's coming back to work so we're unfurloughing all the staff. It's a great feeling.''

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Sara Jones, from the Welsh Retail Consortium, says England and Northern Ireland are now in an ''enviable position'' having opened non-essential retail stores.

''We're really keen to see some clarity, or indicative time scales at the very least from the Welsh Government,'' Sara said.

''We know that there's going to be a review this week and we really hope that the first minister will deliver some good news for the retail industry in Wales.

''Our colleagues in England and Northern Ireland are already in a very enviable position that they can reopen their retail stores.

''It'll take some time to get going again but we want to play our part in driving our economy forward over the next couple of months.''

The hospitality sector in Wales are also facing uncertainty as lockdown continues.

Seventy restaurants have written an open letter to the first minister urging him to help get the industry back up and running.

One of the restaurateurs who signed the letter is Stephen Terry, who owns The Hardwick in Abergavenny.

''When that plug was pulled it had a devastating effect on anyone in hospitality,'' Stephen said.

Most of signatures came from restaurants in rural or coastal areas, which Stephen feels are at an even greater risk.

''We're at a disadvantage to built up areas where people can walk and get takeaways.

''Here you've got to make a journey and there's restrictions on how far you can travel.''

Mark Drakeford has insisted that Wales ''was not falling behind'' Credit: PA

Speaking at the Welsh Government's daily coronavirus update, First Minister Mark Drakeford insisted that Wales was ''not falling behind'' as restrictions on non-essential shops remain.

He said the retail sector would be ''well prepared'' to open if given the go-ahead after this weeks review of lockdown restrictions.

This week they will look at what restrictions could be eased as part of their three week review system.

Any easing of restrictions, which could offer some hope to businesses in Wales, are expected to be announced on Friday.