How can shops reopen safely as coronavirus lockdown measures ease in England?

  1. ITV Report

As the Government unveils its full list of retailers allowed to reopen from June 15, guidance has been issued in order to protect customers and workers while coronavirus remains a threat.

Fashion stores, betting outlets, and charity shops will all be allowed to welcome customers but must adhere to new measures.

In advice published by the Government, shops have been advised of how to “work safely” while stressing the need to keep “as many people as possible two metres apart from those they do not live with.”

Retailers are encouraged to map out one-way systems in shops. Credit: PA
  • How will getting in to a shop or supermarket change?

Retailers have been advised to aim to “minimise the contact resulting from visits to stores or outlets.”

This means that a continuation of queues outside of supermarkets, and limiting the number of customers allowed in at a time should remain in place.

Outlets have been told to “take into account total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas” when mapping out how customers can stay a safe two metre distance away from others.

With queues outside of stores looking to become the norm, Government guidelines say “outside premises” should be used “where available and safe”. A measure that might be more difficult in bad weather.

Staff at a fish and chip shop in Northumberland put out social distancing signs for customers. Credit: PA

Managing longer queues should be done with barriers, a queuing system, and having staff on hand to direct customers, the guidance states.

Getting to the shops could also face permanent change, with retailers advised to try and provide “additional parking or facilities such as bike racks” so customers can avoid public transport.

  • What will it be like once inside a store?

Once inside a store, a lot of the current measures aimed at reducing grouping of customers look set to remain in place.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has told retailers to try and introduce one-way systems where possible, encourage shoppers to use hand sanitiser when they enter, and avoid touching products when browsing.

Screens look likely to remain in place as a physical barrier at checkouts, while retailers have been encourage to use contactless payments where possible.

Screens at checkouts have provided a physical barrier between staff and customers during the outbreak. Credit: PA

Free samples in the supermarket are unlikely to feature, too, with shops told to rethink “demonstrations and promotions” to try and keep a safe distance.

  • What if I want to try something on before buying?

Fitting rooms should be “closed wherever possible” according to the advice, marking the end of trying before you buy.

Only in circumstances where fitting rooms are “essential” should they remain open – for example to support key workers buying critical protective clothing.

For other products that might need trying out, like beds or furniture, retailers have been told to use protective coverings that can be cleaned between uses.

Shops in close proximity are encouraged to work together to manage the flow of customers. Credit: PA
  • Won’t this lead to more returns? How can this be done safely?

Returning purchases, or picking up orders that have been made online, pose a further challenge for retailers.

A number of measures have been recommended, including “picking-up and dropping-off collection points” to avoid passing purchases hand-to-hand, staggered collection times for online orders, and contactless refunds.

The Government guidance also suggest setting up “no contact” return procedures – though details of how this can be achieved are not provided.

Once purchases have been returned, retailers have been told to store the items where they cannot be touched for 72 hours – or clean them before returning them to the shop floor.

Shoppers social distance outside a Tesco in Twickenham earlier in the outbreak. Credit: PA
  • Could our shopping habits and routines change altogether?

The way in which we shop could change altogether as a result of the new measures.

Car show rooms, for example, have been told to avoid sharing vehicles outside of people who live together – posing challenges for test drives.

The times we can get into shops might also shift, with retailers advised to work with “neighbouring businesses and local authorities” to look at spreading out the number of customers arriving across the day.

This could lead to staggered opening hours across certain areas or high streets.

Retailers have been told to give clear instructions and guidance to shoppers on how to keep their distance. Credit: PA

Solo shopping is encouraged wherever possible, while retailers are advised to “remind” customers shopping with children that they are responsible for their supervision and “should follow social distancing guidelines.”

Customer service, too, will have to adapt tin order to help keep a safe distance.

Shops have been told to reduce, or even suspend, customer services that “cannot be undertaken without contravening social distancing guidelines”.

For services that can continue, “clearly designated positions” should be marked out so assistance can be given from a safe two metres.

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