FRUSTRATED parents and pupils are queueing for three hours to buy school uniform.

A long queue has formed outside Stevensons in Southbourne as numbers allowed to enter the store are limited due to social distancing measures.

Appointments are necessary for those wishing to buy a full school uniform but those in the queue are using the company's so-called walk-in service for top-up items, online collections and returns.

Bournemouth Echo:

Natasha Sanders-Jones has been in the queue for more than two-and-a-half hours.

She said: "I had to drive here from Poole because this is the only place to get Poole High and Poole Grammar uniform.

"By the time I get home I will have had a round trip of at least four hours just to get a few bits and pieces."

Susan Elsworth, also in the queue for two-and-a-half hours, said: "We drove past the shop yesterday and saw a big queue so we thought we'd come back today but it's just as bad.

"Unfortunately we've got no choice because we need an Avonbourne uniform and this is the only place to get one."

Bournemouth Echo:

Others have taken to social media to voice their anger.

One warned others not to join the queue after 4pm unless they wish to spend the evening there and another said she had seen people queueing at 8.15am today.

The Daily Echo was unable to get in to ask for a comment from staff but a statement on the Stevensons website says: "Our stores are gradually moving away from allowing shopping by appointment only.

"This means that, in most of our shops, you can just pop-in to top-up your child's school uniform and sportswear.

"You'll also be able to return items for exchange or refund, as well as pick up click & collect online orders (where available).

"We will be maintaining social distancing measures inside our stores, so we will be managing numbers at busy times. So, you may need to queue outside at certain times."

Matthew Easter, co-chair of the Schoolwear Association, added: “Like many other retail sectors, the schoolwear industry recognised that there would be challenges in serving the required volume of customers whilst implementing social distancing, given the highly seasonal selling period running up to the start of the new school year in September.

“Schoolwear Association members were quick to implement various measures that would be needed to keep customers and staff safe. Once retail stores were allowed to reopen in June, we have been communicating regularly with both schools and parents to encourage early purchasing this year, to try to spread demand over a longer period running up to Back to School.

"To help with this process, members also introduced in-store appointment systems, increased online services, extended exchange policies to allow parents to purchase earlier with confidence, and longer opening hours.  

“This year more than ever, we completely understand that emotions can run high in the final few days before Back to School. Although schoolwear retailers anticipated these challenges and put measures in place, like elsewhere on the high street, the time it takes to serve customers has increased and this has impacted the number of customers we are able to service through the day.”