High street shops, department stores and shopping centres across England will be able to reopen in mid-June but only if the government's five tests are met and as long as premises are made COVID-19 secure.
Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June. All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books and electronics, as well as tailors, auction houses, photography studios and indoor markets, should be able to reopen from 15 June - as long as the government's five tests are met at this time.
The announcement gives retailers three weeks to prepare. Businesses will only be able to open from these dates once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become COVID-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation and the latest COVID-secure guidelines for retailers.
The government says that "tough powers are in place" to make sure businesses follow the guidelines, including fines and jail sentences of up to two years if the rules are broken.
Business secretary Alok Sharma said: "The guidance we have set out today provides a vital framework to get shops open in a way that is safe for everyone. It explains how retail workers who are not currently working can go back to work as safely as possible and feel confident in their workplace. And it reassures customers that shops are properly assessing the risks and putting in place measures to protect them."
Andrew Goodacre, ceo of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), said: "Bira is pleased with the guidance being given to retail outlets. It provides a broad framework for the basic measures and still allows the retailer to be flexible according to the size, layout and location of the shop. This guidance will ensure that independent retailers provide safe environments for employees and customers."
However, ParcelHero is warning that many independent high street retailers will not survive the current crisis. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that retail sales fell by 18% in April.
David Jinks, ParcelHero's head of consumer research, said: "April's ONS retail estimates show we are looking on helplessly at the Great Dying of the High Street … Local, independent shops with little online presence are highly unlikely to survive such a long lockdown; nor are many big-name brands that never fully integrated store and web sales."
"Retailers must embrace omnichannel sales, with a completely integrated online and in-store experience. Otherwise, Britain's shoppers may simply lose the habit of visiting stores as lockdown loosens. Key to this is encouraging Click & Collect. Integrated stores that enable customers to buy online and pick up in store will be ideally placed at the end of lockdown."
A new poll of UK retailers by LiveArea for Opinium has found that 60% of shops are overhauling their business strategies and 42% are looking to invest in digital. Key elements of these investment plans are online commerce (for 62%) and IT infrastructure (for 45%).
Written by Rachel Miller.