CUSTOMERS flocked to the shops on Monday as non-essential retail was allowed to reopen for the first time in four months.

People were eager to indulge in some retail therapy with shoppers queueing up for high street names such as Primark and Debenhams before doors opened.

By 2pm on Monday afternoon Market Place had seen over 10,500 visitors pass through their doors, as more than 38 stores reopened in the shopping centre.

Queues for Debenhams, which is closing down, formed at 9am ahead of their 10am opening.

General manager Rachel Townsend said: “A wonderful building like Market Place is just not the same when it doesn’t have people inside.

“After 14 weeks of running an empty building it has been really refreshing to see shoppers coming back into town.

"People cannot stop smiling at the ability to simply walk around and do some shopping.

“ Everyone has been very mindful of their fellow shoppers and have all worn face coverings.

“There are also plenty of great bargains to be had, where stores are clearing stock so we anticipate having a busy re-start to trading. ”

Lisa Ryan, manager of Beaverbrooks the Jewellers said: “We have had a very busy day of trading and have really enjoyed reconnecting with some established customers while meeting some new shoppers.

“People are really happy to be back in the town centre and are treating themselves to a little indulgence while they are out at the shops.”

Meanwhile Crompton Place saw a rush of customers for Primark, with shoppers reportedly waiting from around 5am.

The shopping centre has extended opening hours to cope with the demand.

Paula Wood, centre manager, said “It has been a difficult time for retailers and we are excited to be opening Crompton Place and welcoming our customers back to shop in line with Government guidelines.

“I am delighted that we can support our tenants with a safe environment for people to shop and return to the town centre."

Elsewhere in the borough independent shop owners have been glad to see their customers again.

Angela Stevens runs Ruby Rose Boutique in Lee Lane, Horwich, which sells women’s clothing and accessories.

She said: “It feels like Christmas, everyone’s very excited and lots of people have been coming in, everyone seems much happier.

“It’s a really nice feeling, especially after being closed for so long, I nearly gave up at one point, it was very disheartening.

“But now we’ve got our spirit back.

“We’ve had lots of regular customers coming back and it’s been great to chat with them.

“It’s so nice having the shop door open, it feels natural.

“I’m going to try and keep positive and look forward, not back.”