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The Return of Retail, But Not As We Know It


On Monday the 25th May the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at a press conference that shops can now reopen by mid-June. Now in the tenth week of lockdown the PM has given retailers the go ahead with opening dates for non-essential shops ranging from department stores to small independents.

From the 1st June outdoor markets and car showrooms can open, followed by other non-essential retailers from the 15th June. All retailers must undertake an appropriate Covid-19 risk assessment.

The Government has published guidance on how to manage the re-opening process to find out more click here

To help minimise risk all retailers need to:

  1. Increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleansing
  2. Make every effort to allow staff to work from home. Where this is not possible businesses should make every effort to maintain the 2m physical distancing guidelines
  3. If it is not possible to maintain the 2m physical distancing take all possible measures to reduce the risk of transmission
  4. Use screens where possible; team members should work back to back or side to side; reduce the number of people operating at one time (introduce shift working)
  5. Give particular thought to protecting the most vulnerable.

The PM was keen to stress the date could change if reductions in coronavirus infections fail to meet expectations. As well as fashion retailers, charity stores, shoe shops, furniture stores, tailors and book shops – gift shops in museums, retail spaces in theatres, libraries, heritage sites and tourism sites will also be allowed to open.

The idea of touching, testing and trying on goods is a habit that will need to change in these early days. The government and trade bodies have advised shops to keep changing rooms closed when they first open, with a view to reintroducing them once the guidelines are relaxed. Other measures will include one-way systems marked out on the floor, 2m distancing, perspex screens at checkouts, contactless payments, face masks for staff and limiting the number of customers, as seen with supermarkets.

Other stores have already announced further measures such as footwear chain Kurt Geiger; any shoes that have been tried on will be set aside for 24 hours before another customer can try them. At Waterstones all books browsed by shoppers will be put to one side for 72-hours before going back on sale. Close contact beauty counters that offer make-up or skincare demonstrations will remain closed.

High street retail is coming back, but not as we know it – social distancing measures will take a lot of the fun out of shopping however retailers have no choice but to adapt, minimise risk and plan for better times ahead.

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