Thousands Sign Petition Calling for Shutdown of UK Luxury Shopping ‘Village’ With More Than 160 Designer Stores

Amid coronavirus concerns, thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the temporary closure of a luxury outlet shopping center in the United Kingdom.

As of press time, a Change.org petition to temporarily shutter Bicester Village in Bicester, Oxfordshire, England had garnered more than 4,500 signatures. A favorite of tourists, the luxury outlet center features boutiques for more than 160 brands, among them Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent and Gucci.

After several months of mandated closure during the U.K.’s lockdown, the complex was able to reopen on Monday with precautions in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Bicester Village is asking guests to maintain a distance of two meters (about 6.5 feet) apart, and visitors are having their temperatures scanned on arrival. Additionally, guests are able to book a spot in a digital queue to avoid overcrowding in many boutiques, and hand sanitization stations have been placed throughout the village.

However, photos taken on Monday and shared on social media appeared to show visitors flouting social distancing guidelines while walking from shop to shop. Laura Wicks, the woman who started the Change.org petition, said she was “disgusted to see the hundreds of people squashed into the street like coronavirus had never happened.”

“As a nation we are all still under the 2-meter guidelines and as a company, Bicester Village [has] a responsibility to keep its staff safe. It is horrendous that the people who work there are being forced into an unsafe environment when so many of them have family at home,” she wrote.

Months of coronavirus-induced closures had a significant negative impact on the British economy. Last month, the Office for National Statistics announced that the U.K.’s gross domestic product shrank by 2% in the first three months of the year, marking the largest decline since the 2008 financial crisis. In March alone, the economy fell by a record 5.8%, the biggest month drop since record-keeping began, as the pandemic forced the government to impose strict lockdown measures.

In March, the United Kingdom imposed lockdown measures due to the coronavirus, which remained in effect throughout April. In May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson began to ease restrictions, with a phased reopening of stores commencing this month.

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