Shopping in set to recommence in earnest on 15 June, but it won’t be as it was in the before time: now there will be facemasks, social distancing, handwashing stations and no changing rooms, to name but a few changes.
Clothes shops are going to see the biggest change, requiring face masks and changing rooms could be kept shut in efforts to reassure customers and help stop the spread of Covid-19, according to Stephen Baker from the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge.
Managing the flow of people and ensuring social distancing rules are adhered to will be the principal problem in clothes shops – along with trying to avoid people touching clothing. Experts have said there is a lack of evidence about how long viruses stay on fabrics and Professor Baker says the use of hand sanitiser and regular hand washing will be key to reopening stores.
Quarantining goods for 72 hours – as charity shops have proposed doing, as has book seller Waterstones – is a “good idea”, says Professor Baker. However, these measures will be more about reassuring the public, rather than being based on hard science, he says.
“Whether it will have any impact or not I don’t know, but actually I think that the whole purpose of this would be to reassure customers coming into these places that there’s no risk,” he says. The chance of people getting the virus from objects in shops is “relatively low”, Professor Baker believes, but impossible to measure scientifically.
Boots, which as an essential retailer has remained open through the lockdown, is implementing a ‘triage approach’ to letting shoppers in once the shops open fully.
Anticipating a rise in footfall, the retailer will continue to limit the number of people in stores, making them queue outside. However, it will be looking to triage those in the queue based on their needs. Stores will also be patrolled by wardens to maintain social distancing.
Shoppers wanting to buy make up from the No7 counter will have to request help via the No7 virtual beauty counter. This online video consultations will offer 20-minute personalised, one-to-one sessions with beauty advisors for cosmetic and skincare support.
Greggs, which is also looking to open 800 stores come 15 June hasn’t pledged to triage those in the queue.
The re-opening of stores is set to have a big impact on shopping centres, which are also being forced to bring in new rules. Intu, which operates malls across the UK, has published its plans to keep shoppers safe when stores re-open.
These include limiting the number of people in the mall at any one time, closing parking bays to limit the numbers queuing to get in, a one-way system for shoppers walking the mall and sanitiser and handwashing stations at regulator intervals.
The groups is also going to provide PPE for all staff.
Matthew Roberts, chief executive of intu, explains: “Experts from across intu have formed a specialist taskforce who have considered everything we need to run our centres as safely as possible, with a series of central, common principles for the portfolio and individual plans for each centre. This includes working with our brand customers and providing them with all the support they need to reopen safely, as well as new social distancing and hygiene procedures to keep everyone who visits or works in our centres safe.”