WIMMERA businesses are continuing to work through the trials of operating during a pandemic.
Horsham Athlete's Foot store owner and Business Horsham deputy chairman Paul Atherton reminded people social distancing was still essential when shopping.
Mr Atherton said he had heard from several retailers both in Horsham and across the country that people weren't always following social distancing and store capacity requirements.
"We keep hearing the message about social distancing. It's like anything - if you hear it over and over again you become immune to it," he said.
Mr Atherton said people were queuing up outside his Firebrace Street store on Saturday to follow restrictions.
"People are happy to wait outside if they know," he said.
Mr Atherton is allowing eight people in the store including staff.
The quota fills quickly as families shop together - a trend he hasn't seen for a few years.
Mr Atherton said families used to come in all together to buy school shoes, whereas these days parents tended to bring in one child at a time.
Now, groups of three or four were visiting together to buy a single pair of shoes.
Mr Atherton thinks a desire to get out of the house could be behind the move.
"That's the only way I can put it," he said.
Older customers are also starting to return to the store, after many self-isolated for about eight weeks in line with COVID-19 restrictions.
Along with capacity limits, Mr Atherton also has hand sanitiser at the door for customers.
As restrictions and people relax, what will come next is uncertain.
Mr Atherton is ordering new stock ahead of summer and is unsure what to expect - should he buy more or less than usual? How likely will people be buying things if a much-talked-about recession takes hold?
Already, the pandemic has had an effect on the sale of something undoubtedly summery: sandals and thongs.
Mr Atherton said the unseasonable footwear was often still popular at this time of year because of people taking trips to Queensland.
Closed borders have quietly affected the shoe sales.
Along the street, at clothing store Earles, the pandemic has affected menwear sales, but less so women's.
Owner Brian Curran said retail generally was on the quieter side.
He said men's high-end fashion such as suits or jackets had been affected by fewer weddings, funerals and debutante balls.
Mr Curran said the return to school had boosted things though, with school uniforms driving more people into the store.
"We've had a very gradual build-up in customers," he said. "As the (Wimmera COVID-19) figures got better, people got braver."
Mr Curran said the business had addressed coronavirus concerns by supplying sanitiser at the front door and counter, limiting customer numbers in-store, regularly wiping down surfaces and having markings on the floor to direct people.
He said it was easier to keep people distanced in the shop because it was two levels.
Mr Curran used the downturn to focus on getting a website and social media accounts up and running.
"We finally realised we have to jump on that to get things moving a bit," he said.
"We had a sale from Tasmania earlier in the week.If you don't try things you just get lost."
Mr Curran said it would take a while to return to regular sales.
"I'm confident we'll get back to where we were," he said.
Around the corner, Roberts Avenue shops are also back trading.
Velvet Ark owner Marg Hammond closed the store for three weeks during the tightest restrictions.
She has slowly increased the shop's hours.
Mrs Hammond said she and other Roberts Avenue business owners had been communicating throughout the pandemic.
She said they had co-ordinated store closures and reopenings to best benefit everyone.
Mrs Hammond said her loyal customers had quickly returned to the store once it reopened.
She hopes temporary closures could have a long-term positive effect on encouraging people to shop local.
"I think people are going to be more mindful of shopping locally rather than spending online," she said.
Mrs Hammond also hopes a push from customers for more manufacturing to take place in Australia could also come to fruition.
"We're fortunate to have quite a few Australian-made products in our store," she said.
"It's fabulous if you can support Australian-made."
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