Non-essential shops in England have been permitted to reopen their doors today, for the first time since March amid the Coronovirus pandemic, but many small retailers fear for their survival amid a boom in online sales and new social distancing rules.
During lockdown many retailers have seen an online boom and recognise this may be the future. The high street was already having a hard time before the COVID-19 shutdown and some household names such as Debenhams will not reopen all its stores.
Under the devolved nation rules, Northern Ireland allowed shops to reopen on Friday. Non-essential shops in Scotland and Wales remain closed for now.
Shops will have to stick to guidelines designed to keep staff and customers safe from the coronavirus.
They must ensure two-metre distancing is always maintained and are encouraged to use contactless payments where possible. They should also discourage the touching of products and ensure any items being returned are quarantined for 72 hours.
Many business owners say these measures are likely to affect their margins. Social distancing is feared to affect the number of customers shopping on the high street.
With news on Friday that the UK economy shrunk by a record 20.4% in April, there is hope that retail reopening will be an important first step in the reopening of the broader economy.
Nigel Naylor-Smith, Head of Retail and Hospitality at Fujitsu, said: “Amidst some of the most difficult operating conditions the industry has seen, non-essential retailers are re-opening their doors today to consumers. With shopper numbers on the high street already beginning to claw their way back up, this move should offer the sector some much needed respite and a chance to reinvigorate its fortunes and sales after months of shoppers prioritising online channels.
“It is now crucial that stores ensure shoppers are comfortable returning in-store; from publicising well implemented social distancing measures, such as limiting the number of customers in store, to keeping restaurants and play areas closed, and even allowing customers to pick up click-and-collect items from the car park. Not only this, but many stores are offering competitive deals and sales to incentivise shoppers. Ultimately, the onus is now on physical retailers to boost consumer confidence which, in turn, will help drive footfall, overall sales and strengthen the UK’s economy.”