Non-essential shops to reopen on Monday

Following a conversation between prime minister Boris Johnson and business secretary Alok Sharma last week, in which the former reportedly burst out “Christ!” when presented with the number of jobs at risk if the current Covid-19 restrictions continue, the UK is now firmly accelerating its way out of lockdown. On Monday, it was confirmed that all non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen as of next week. Several landlords, including Hammerson and Capital & Regional, have announced that they will indeed be reopening their centres on Monday, whilst many retailers have outlined the specific measures they are taking to ensure a safe reopening. These measure are in line with a set of detailed Covid-19 safety measures for retailers outlined by the government last month, which including limiting the number of people in stores and placing protective coverings on large items.

So, as we head to the shops for the first time since 23 March, what can we expect?

Retailers like IKEA and Marks & Spencer have announced that they will impose restrictions on the maximum number of customers in the stores at any one time, with IKEA saying it would have wardens patrolling aisles to ensure the two-metre distancing rule is observed. H&M will be enforcing safety precautions including separate entrances and exit queue systems when maximum safe capacity is reached and hand sanitisers throughout the stores. Boots have said it has installed Perspex protective screens at the checkouts, and that face-to-face beauty consultations will operate via video for the ‘foreseeable future’, whilst many retailers including John Lewis and H&M will keep fitting rooms closed until further notice. Returned clothes will need to be quarantined for 72 hours – and

Waterstones said this morning that it will use that same time frame to quarantine books that customers pick up but do not buy.

It is safe to say that shopping will be quite different from what we are used to. Many of us will miss the casual browsing of stores and the tactile experience of touching items and trying on clothes (which, after all, is one of the main advantages of physical retail versus the online shopping we have grown accustomed to over the past months). Still, the reopening of stores is an important step towards some sort of normality for our society, even if that normality is vastly different than the one we used to know.

And as for the retail industry? Earlier this week, Boris Johnson stated that this has been “the most challenging period for high streets and shops in our history” – and Monday will mark the beginning of the end to this most challenging period.

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