Non-essential retail to reopen in June with COVID-19 Secure guidelines
Perhaps in an attempt to divert attention from Dominic Cummings and goings, at Sunday’s Coronavirus Press Briefing, Boris Johnson announced the next steps to reopen non-essential retail in June.
The reason given for the advance notice of non-essential retail reopening is to give retailers time to plan and prepare to reopen. Many shops will have been locked for two months and will need dusting and cleaning and also the stock that is on the shelves or clothes hanging might not be the best stock for this unseasonably hot weather. At the very least merchandisers will want to refresh shop window displays and ensure the most suitable stock is displayed in the premium positions… which might not be in the usual places as one-way customer flows will likely have to be introduced.
Shops opening, non-essential retail restarting, and the high street seeing the first tentative steps towards recovery will be an interesting time for online retail. People are already talking about trying clothes on before buying them, but there is a high probability that changing rooms will be closed and shoppers disappointed. The government has published detailed information which includes advice about not touching merchandise if you’re not going to purchase it (Note to the lady in a Waitrose store, recently spotted removing shampoo caps to see if she liked the smell… it’s a really bad way to act at the moment!)
Whilst non-essential retail may be opening, they will have to limit the number of customers in store at any one time and in most instances implement queuing. Many lessons, including one way traffic flow within the store, will be learned from how our Supermarkets have adapted in recent times. However supermarkets generally have huge car parks with plenty of space to queue and that’s not the same for retailers for who Government advice suggests working with local councils and neighbouring retailers to manage queues. For shopping malls, it’s the mall owner who has been designated to manage total customers within the mall and queues outside shops within the shopping centre.
The reality is that whilst many retailers are desperate to reopen customers may not be quite as keen to flock to the high street. They’ve had two months of shopping online, safety concerns will keep many away, and limitations on numbers of consumers within stores will limit profits.
June will also be the month where we start to discover how many furloughed retail staff still actually have jobs to go back to. Many may find themselves remaining on furlough which in itself will be a worry, but others might start to receive redundancy notices in the coming months if it become apparent that their jobs no long exist.
When will non-essential retail open?
Opening non-essential retail will take place in two phases taking place on the 1st of June and then the 15th of June. NB This only applies to England the the devolved nations of the UK will set their own timetable.
Monday the 1st of June 2020
On the 1st of June, outdoor markets and car showrooms can reopen. Boris pointed out that there is significantly less transmission outdoors indicating that outdoor markets are relatively safe with social distancing and that car showrooms generally have significant outdoor space attached to showrooms suggesting that they too are lower risk.
This will be great news for many smaller online retailers who also operate market stalls. They will be able to once again sell direct to the general public and, with boredom set in weeks ago for many consumers, any chance to get out of the home and indulge in a little retail therapy could be very welcome. If outdoor markets are open then that does suggest we are encouraged to open our wallets and get spending.
A note of caution, if you do operate an outdoor market stall then just as supermarkets are discouraging the use of cash, you will almost certainly want to set yourself up with a card payment solution. There are many available today that work with your mobile phone with processing rates as little as around 1.75%.
It’s worth noting that some schools will also reopen for some pupils on the 1st of June.
Monday the 15th of June 2020
On the 15th of June all other non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen. However this is contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus and significant social distancing steps will have to be put in place for both retail staff and customers to ensure that shopping returns in a COVID-19 Secure manner.
For shops and shopping malls there is considerable advice available from the government here.
The big Corporates have known the planned dates 15th June for a while now. All the people I know some in very senior Positions were telling me this date.