The government has issued fresh guidance on how non-essential retailers can reopen their shops by June 15, as long as the coronavirus infection rate is under control.
The guidance on how shops must be made Covid secure for both staff and customers comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday said that non-essential shops would be able to reopen on June 15, following the reopening of car showrooms and outdoor markets on June 1.
Johnson said: “We know that the transmission of the virus is lower outdoors and it is easier to follow Covid secure guidelines in open spaces. That means we can allow outdoor markets to reopen in a safe way that does not risk causing a second wave of the virus.
“Then from June 15, we intend to allow all other non-essential retail ranging from department stores to small independent shops to reopen. Again this change will be contingent upon progress against the five tests and will only be permitted for those premises that are made Covid secure.”
He said the government would have the powers to enforce safety standards.
Today cabinet minister Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that shopping habits such as trying on clothes or testing make-up would need to change.
He said: “So when it comes to touching and testing goods, when it comes to trying on clothing, when it comes to trying make-up and so on, that all of us exercise restraint in not doing that and recognising that as these stores reopen, it is a new normal, but it will allow us to ensure there are a wider range of goods and will also ensure the economy can return to a new normal, that is absolutely vital for people’s jobs.”
The government guidance on safe working can be found in full here. Measures included range from risk assessments and protecting vulnerable people – and those who live with vulnerable people – through to defining the number of people who can go into a shop at once, through to queue management and workplace cleaning.
Responding to the news, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “We welcome the announcement of the Government’s roadmap for reopening a broader range of shops next month, which provides much needed clarity on the route ahead. Safety is the fundamental concern for all retailers and they have been working hard to implement the necessary measures to operate safely over the past weeks. Now that we know which shops can open and when, retailers can begin communicating their plans with their workforces and customers. The industry stands ready to play its part in getting the economy moving again.”
Jack Izzard, director of recently-founded The Great British Bounce Back, which represents small and micro businesses as they seek to rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, had a more mixed reaction.
“While the news that shops can open from mid-June is a massive boost on the surface, the reality is that retailers have had their entire business models dynamited overnight and that this is largely a symbolic announcement,” he said.
“The truth is that the UK economy is not going to suddenly come round, dust itself off and carry on as normal. Everything has changed and we need to see how Government is going to address the challenges of businesses moving forward.
“Boris Johnson suggested that a bounce back on the high street could happen in the coming months. Who’s he kidding? The impact of lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped the entire economic landscape and we will be adjusting to the new normal for many years to come.”
Nigel Frith, senior market analyst at asktraders.com, said: “We are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the ongoing pandemic, most retailers are beginning to question as to how they can enforce social distancing when it comes to the re-opening of shops. Sure, social distancing measures will be put in place, but how can shops make sure that these guidelines are being followed? For independent stores, for example, it might be that two people are allowed in at any given time – but how are big chains such as John Lewis or Primark going to join with social distancing measures? Adding to this we also have to think about what happens if the death toll or infection rate starts to increase again – what are retail shops plans for this? These are the questions that we all want to know.”
Image: Adobe Stock