John Lewis will reopen a further nine department stores on Thursday after the first wave of reopenings this week.
The nine stores opening are at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Peter Jones in London, Southampton, Tunbridge Wells and York.
It means John Lewis would have reopened 22 stores, with 28 remaining closed. The Partnership said further announcements on reopenings will come in the next few weeks, although insiders have warned previously it is “highly unlikely” all 50 stores will reopen.
Some stores will increase the number of customers allowed inside at any one time after bosses found that social distancing was possible with greater crowds in bigger stores.
Berangere Michel, director for customer service for the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We are still reopening our shops carefully and in phases to ensure that our safety measures are absolutely right, and remain prepared to stop and review our plans if need be.
“We are already applying lessons learned from our first store openings earlier this week.
“We found that in some shops we were able to increase the number of customers and still maintain robust social distancing, and made our signage clearer in order to help customers navigate the changes.
“Although we are not able to offer every single experience that we used to, we are still managing to offer customers a really varied shopping experience that is as close to normal and as enjoyable as we can possibly make it.
“Customers will still be able to touch products, lie on beds, try on and test wipeable products such as sunglasses, prams, and tech products, and get the personal advice they expect from our partners.”
According to the retailer, sales of TVs have jumped as football returns to screens following lockdown, and with Fathers’ Day approaching sales of cards are also strong.
Poole and Kingston-upon-Thames reopened on Monday, with queues of 200 waiting outside for doors to open at the former, according to witnesses.
On Thursday, Bluewater, Cambridge, Cheadle, Cheltenham, High Wycombe, Horsham, Ipswich, Norwich, Nottingham, Solihull and Welwyn all reopened.
Most services are available to customers but close-contact beauty services remain closed and customers will be offered hand sanitiser when they enter.
Since reopening stores – John Lewis has continued to trade online – customers have been snapping up china tea sets, face masks and buttons.
The firm explained the popularity of buttons appeared to be down to the items being used in conjunction with face masks to stop the elastic straps rubbing behind the ears.
They are also thought to have been wanted by people who have taken up sewing and knitting during lockdown, requiring buttons for their handmade goods.
Other popular items sold on Monday were pillowcases and bed sheets, televisions and printer cartridges.