Thousands of high streets and shopping centres in England will be back in business from Monday, as the Government eases restrictions on non-essential retailers – allowing them to trade again for the first time since March 23.
Debenhams, John Lewis, Topshop, Primark and House of Fraser are amongst those that will reopen today – though fitting rooms will be closed, opening hours will be shorter and returns policies extended.
The measures all form part of the Government’s ‘Covid-ready’ guidelines – which state exactly what precautions firms must take to trade again.
It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the nation it will be “safe” to shop from Monday, despite 42% of Brits saying it’s “too soon”.
Sunak said new “Covid-ready” measures, which include 72-hour hold times on returned goods and signs on shop windows, will help safeguard members of the public as the economy picks up again following a 10-week lockdown.
“Stores have taken extraordinary steps to ensure that experience is safe for people,” he said.
“It means you can shop in confidence and you can shop knowing it is going to keep you and your families safe from a health perspective”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled in May that all non-essential shops would be allowed to reopen in England on 15 June.
He said businesses must follow the government’s social distancing and hygiene guidelines, and that all retailers that open must complete a coronavirus risk assessment.
Enforcement notices can be issued if shops reopen without the safety steps in place, Business Secretary Alok Sharma has warned.
Under the rules, fitting rooms will be closed, large families will be banned and customers will be urged to pay using a cashless method where possible.
One-way systems and barriers will also be put in place, in measures that will replicate how supermarkets have operated throughout the crisis.
“Customers will be encouraged to use hand sanitiser and advised not to pick up items as they browse, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“Clothing stores have been told to shut fitting rooms where possible, other than for the purpose of enabling staff to change into protective clothing.”
Shoppers will be asked to sanitise their hands upon entry – and customers will only be allowed to touch items they intend to buy.
The new rules and measures will be clearly set out with posters, signs and visual aids on windows and doors before customers enter branches.
Only one person per household will be allowed in at a time, unless you are a parent with a young child.
Every shop with five employees or more will have to complete a written risk assessment – detailing how it plans to keep staff and customers safe.
Temperature checks on arrival and face coverings will not be compulsory.
All staff will have to increase the number of times they wash their hands, and surfaces will have to be regularly cleaned.
Screens and barriers will be installed and all retail stores will have ‘drop off areas’, where goods can be transferred over to colleagues.
Anything that has been tried on will have to be stored away from sale for 72 hours or thoroughly cleaned before being returned to the shop floor.
Some shopping centres around the UK are introducing additional safety measures to manage crowds from Monday.
Liverpool ONE and the Metquarter, for instance, are both urging shoppers to ‘keep left’ on pedestrianised streets and only enter lifts with members of their household.
In Westfield shopping centres, there will be separate entrances and exits and a one-way system to manage queues.
Roundabouts where the corridors meet will be introduced to make sure shoppers are not crossing and getting “unnecessarily close to each other”.
Intu shopping centres will have dedicated queuing zones outside of stores and one-way systems to manage overcrowding.
While the Government has said face coverings won’t be compulsory for staff or customers, shoppers are advised to wear them in closed, confined spaces.
This means if you’re entering a particularly small store, such as a newsagent or florist, you should cover your nose and mouth. We’ve got a full guide on face masks and where to wear them, here – remember, they will be mandatory on all public transport from Monday.
Customers are also urged to pay via contactless where possible – such as through your phone or a contactless payment card.
While queuing and browsing, make sure you’re aware of the two metre gap, one way signs and by mindful of those around you. Stores such as John Lewis say customers will have to stand eight metres apart on escalators.
Outside stores, you’ll have to queue in a line – guidance on this will be displayed on store windows. You won’t be able to queue via a car park.
Where possible, shop on your own or with just one other member from your household. Kids won’t be turned away, but it’s advised that you only shop with children where absolutely necessary.
If you’re heading out by car, remember some parking areas will have limited spaces to manage congestion. Check with your local authority for extra parking and bike racks as the Government says you should avoid public transport where you can.
When shopping, be aware that fitting rooms will be closed and testers will be unavailable. If you return an item, it will be placed on hold for 72 hours. While browsing, aim to only touch items you intend to buy.