The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have effectively placed huge swathes of the UK’s economy on hold. All retailer deemed non-essential were ordered by the government to close their doors on 23th March. After over a month of dormancy, however, the high street could be showing its first signs of reawakening.
While it will still be some time before retail practices return to “normal”, trade figures begun to issued new social distancing guidelines for retailers, allowing them to effectively prepare for any easing of the lockdown. The British Retail Consortium and Usdaw have issued a range of measures designed to help prevent the spread of infection.
Measures recommended by the industry bodies include measures already in place for essential retailers such as grocers and supermarkets. Among these are;
- Making hand sanitiser available to all customers.
- Using floor markers to help customers stay at least 2 metres apart.
- Limiting the number of shoppers allowed in-store at any given time.
- Scheduling deliveries to prevent crowding.
- Encouraging customers to shop alone wherever possible.
- Being more proactive with cleaning and sanitising handrails, door handles and lift buttons frequently.
- The importance of readiness
These measures do not necessarily indicate that non-essential retailers will be reopening their doors in the immediate future. Rather, they represent a willingness on the part of the retail industry to be proactive and ready for any easing of lockdown measures based on sound scientific and medical advice.
“Non-food retail should only start trading again when expert public health advice agrees.” says Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis, “However, we need to be ready and we need to make sure that the proper preparations and measures are put in place.”.
Will shopping change fundamentally as a result of coronavirus?
The coronavirus crisis has already seen several businesses – including Debenhams, Oasis and Warehouse – file for administration.
As the pandemic continues, more could follow suit. The British Independent Retailers Association says that one in five of its members don’t plan to reopen once lockdown measures are relaxed, and the Centre for Retail Research has predicted that more than 20,000 stores will close by the end of the year. Some chains whose high street arms have fallen are planning to keep trading online. Other shops are considering changing their business models to survive.
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