Walking along the high street or taking a trip to the beach on a bright summer's day you could almost be forgiven for thinking that nothing had changed in the last four months.

It’s already strange to think how quiet the streets had been just two months ago when we lived under strict lockdown, forced to work from home if could and go on furlough if we couldn't.

“It’s been strange,” said Joe Thompson from Juice 33 Vape shop, as I wandered around Haverfordwest talking to shopkeepers about their reopening experiences.

“We didn’t think we would be open so soon so we ripped all the ceiling out,” he said, indicating the work going on behind him.

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In the fallout of the coronavirus, our high streets have been one of the hardest-hit areas – an area already on its knees after years of declining footfall as people migrate to shopping online. Now these shops are having to contend with extra measures to keep staff and customers safe.

Each shop I visited had hand sanitiser, some on a table as you entered, some at the till, one had it hanging from a string at the door. Many had also installed Perspex screens around to tills and one-way systems around the store.

Most of the shopkeepers I spoke to praised the customers for keeping up the safety measures put in place by the Welsh Government.

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“It was a bit worrying trying to get everything in place - all the hand sanitiser - but we are doing everything we can,” said Jill Woods, manager at the Silver Lily.

“This is a nice big shop so it’s easier to [keep social distancing] in here and we have fresh air circulating.

“It’s just the way of life, we just have to stay safe as much as we can,” she added.

The idea of staying safe from the virus is one that parents are now having to pass onto their children.

As I queued to go into the supermarket I heard a young child ask his mum why they were having to wait.

“Because the world is a bad way at the moment,” she said. “And we all have to be careful.”

In January, before the coronavirus hit the UK, the Centre for Retail Research said there were around 50,000 fewer shops on our high streets than just over a decade ago and it anticipated things would get worse.

Fast forward to April and Melanie Leech, the chief executive of the British Property Federation, told MPs the pandemic could ‘vastly accelerate’ the high street’s decline - predicting as many as 50 per cent fewer shops in the next two years.

Western Telegraph:

And yet in Pembrokeshire, there was a sense of joviality to many of the shopkeepers. Despite the pressures of reopening, of trying to keep their businesses going, many seemed to put on more than a brave face – they seemed positive.

“It seems like things are going fairly well at the moment,” said Nathan Ball and Ryan Hughes from Terminal Records.

“The slower pace suits a record shop - and it’s good to get out of the house again.

“I think it’s been a bit slower, but it’s nice to see the town open up again. I think I’m almost seeing more people in the town now than I did before.”

Mr Thompson from Juice 33, which has stores throughout Pembrokeshire and beyond, said different areas seem to have reacted differently to reopening.

“It’s weird, I would say in Haverfordwest 90 per cent of our customers have come back to the store.

“We have a few regulars who are shielding who can’t come out, but most are back.”

Mr Thompson thought this might be because the population living in or near the town centre was higher than in other areas.

Many of the shopkeepers I spoke to said that trade had returned in waves, with an initial rush at reopening, then quiet for a time, before picking back up.

Like Mr Thompson at the vape shop, the staff at Silver Lily said their experiences had varied around the county.

“Our Saundersfoot store was very quiet at first because we had the five-mile rule still in place,” said manager Jill Woods.

Ms Woods said Saundersfoot had benefited as holidaymakers had returned to the county with an influx of customers to the store.

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Not everyone was quite so positive however, Sandra Davies at Time Is said the lockdown had been tough for the store because they still had overheads to pay while on lockdown.

“Now we’re back I’m very busy, I have bags of watches with batteries and straps that have needed repairing during lockdown,” Ms Davies said.

“We’re well known in the area for what we do so we have been busy, but it’s levelling out again now.

“The losses that we’ve had – we just hope that is going to pick up again.

“We are about half our normal [footfall]. We have just got to wait and see. We are here to serve our customers.”

The retail sector in Wales has been particularly hard hit over the last few years.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between 2012 and 2017, the number of high street retail jobs fell in every country and region except London with Wales suffering the biggest drop anywhere in the UK, with retail jobs falling by 10 per cent.

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Before the lockdown, a few of the stores had already made the move to selling online – something that became even more important as the pandemic hit.

“We were quite lucky, we managed to keep just over half our trade through lockdown over the phone and online,” said Mr Thompson from Juice 33.

Mr Thompson said this worked out well because costs had been lower while they furloughed staff but the challenge was coming.

“We are open, but we’re not back to where we were - we’re in-between.

“The next couple of months will be the biggest challenge but we are confident that we will survive.”

Ms Woods agreed, saying: “We just have to take it one day at a time.”