Queues form at Primark at the Rushden Lakes shopping complex on June 15, 2020 in Rushden. The British government have relaxed coronavirus lockdown laws significantly, allowing zoos, safari parks and non-essential shops to open to visitors. (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)
Eastern Eye Staff
NON-ESSENTIAL shops and outdoor public attractions across England opened their doors on Monday (15) to welcome customers back after 83 days of coronavirus lockdown.
The retailers have been told to ensure Covid-19-secure conditions within stores, including visible signs reminding people about hygiene and also ensuring a two-metre distance within the premises by limiting the numbers allowed indoors.
“People should shop, and shop with confidence,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the Monday morning reopening.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also encouraged shoppers to support the high streets kick back into business, reassuring people that the Covid-19 infection rate was within a range that allows for the reopening.
“Get out there, shop safely and give your local businesses the support they need,” he tweeted.
Thank you to everyone who’s worked hard to get their stores open safely today.
As our highstreets reawaken and non-essential retail opens for business, they’ll need your help. Get out there, shop safely and give your local businesses the support they need. pic.twitter.com/C8IJRCHBFq
“People need to have the confidence that it’s safe… and I can give that assurance,” said Sunak.
Zoos and safari parks in England also opened their gates to the public. The prime minister’s spokeswoman said they “will help provide families with more options to spend time outdoors, while supporting the industry caring for these incredible animals”.
Although essential retailers such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, and banks have stayed open through the lockdown, much of the high street, from bookshops to clothes outlets, have been closed since March 23.
Under Covid-19 measures already in place among the essential shops, the non-essential retailers are required to introduce plastic screens at the tills and floor markings to keep shoppers two metres apart.
Other measures will include messages not to touch items unless customers intend to purchase them and decontaminating shopping baskets after each use.
Most retailers will also have plenty of sanitiser on hand for customers.
In most clothes shops, fitting rooms will be closed. Bookshops said they intend to put items in quarantine if browsed but not bought, while some jewellers are introducing ultraviolet boxes that can decontaminate items in minutes.
There is also government funding being made available for councils to deploy marshalls on the High Street to provide help and advice for both shoppers and shops.
Getting shoppers spending again is key to Britain’s recovery after official data on Friday showed the economy shrank by a quarter over March and April.
The British Retail Consortium reckons the lockdown has cost non-food stores £1.8 billion pounds a week in lost revenues.
Stores will look very different from before the lockdown as they will have to observe hygiene and social distancing regulations. Shoppers face queues outside, restricted numbers inside and limitations on trying products.
Some chains are reopening all their English stores, while others are taking a phased approach.
Fashion chain Primark, which with no online offer has not taken a penny in Britain during the lockdown, plans to open all its 153 stores in England.
Marks & Spencer, which has traded online and kept its food halls open, will reopen the majority of its clothing and homewares selling space.
Rival Next is reopening just 25 stores, while department store chain John Lewis is reopening just two. Electricals retailer Dixons Carphone will open 153 Currys PC World stores.
Researcher Springboard said the number of shoppers in early June indicated “a huge amount” of pent-up demand among consumers for shopping in stores.
However, industry executives are cautious.
“The reopening of the stores is not ‘now COVID-19 is over’ … For a lot of people there’s still some reticence to go out,” said John Bason, finance chief of Primark owner Associated British Foods.