On May 25, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced further plans to lift the lockdown, which included information about when non-essential shops could reopen and which shops would be opening first.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference last month, the PM set out the next step in his plans for the staged re-opening of the UK’s economy and appeared to clear up the confusion over when “non-essential shops” would be able to reopen.
Last week, Business Secretary Alok Sharma repeated the Prime Minister’s strategy and confirmed that “non-essential” shops could open from June 15.
However, these could be shut down again if another lockdown is put in place. It has been reported that a further 36 areas may follow in the footsteps of Leicester, which recently locked down again, closing non-essential shops.
This comes as the UK is approaching the three-month lockdown mark, during which all businesses deemed unessential in the health crisis such as those that sell clothing, electrical and furniture, along with betting shops, were forced to close for business. However, the changes in the lockdown will now see these businesses reopen from today [June 15], along with all other “non-essential” businesses.
Many applauded this decision when it was first announced, including Alok Sharma who said, “The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country. Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”
However, others remain skeptical about the decision, suggesting that social distancing rules have changed the way we shop. Catherine Shuttleworth from the Savvy retail marketing agency told the BBC Today programme last month, “It is fine saying the stores can reopen, but when are we going to have the appetite to go back?
“Shopping is a social, fun experience a lot of the time and social distancing takes that away. It’s going to be a very different way of shopping from what we’re used to.”
So what shops are reopening this week? And what are the safety guidelines in place to make sure it’s as pleasant an experience as possible?
What shops are opening in June?
Providing that they are “Covid secure”, the PM announced that outdoor markets and car showrooms would be open from June 1. He followed this statement up by suggesting that people should spend money in order to help the economy bounce back, saying, “I’m certainly not going to discourage them from spending at all.
“I think that it’s early days but we are very much hoping there will be a bounce back over the next few months.”
Then it was announced that from June 15, all other “non-essential retail” would be allowed to reopen as long as the death and R-rate continued to fall over the coming weeks.
Which non-essential shops have reopened?
As per the announcement, outdoor markets and car showrooms opened on June 1. They were allowed to do before other “non-essential” shops because the chance transmission of the virus is lower outdoors. Also according to the PM, “it is easier to follow Covid secure guidelines in open spaces” – such as these two environments. Garden centres opened in May under the same conditions.
Following a successful reopening of these earlier this month, Boris Johnson said, “From June 15, we intend to allow all other non-essential retail – ranging from department stores to small independent shops – to reopen.”
The Business Secretary, Alok Sharma echoed this last week as he confirmed the reopening would go ahead. At the Downing Street press conference he said, “This is the latest step in the careful restarting of our economy, and will allow high streets up and down the country to spring back to life.”
What is a non-essential shop?
On March 23 this year, the Prime Minister announced that all “non-essential shops” would close to help prevent the virus spreading further.
The shops and services deemed non-essential
Opened on June 1:
- Car showrooms
- Outdoor markets
Opened on June 15:
- All those selling clothes, shoes, electronics, toys and furniture
- Betting shops
- Photography studios
- Indoor markets
Opening on July 4:
- Pubs, cafes and restaurants
- Hairdressers and barbers
- Holiday accommodation including: hotels, holiday rentals, campsites, B&Bs and hostels
- Libraries and community centres
- Theatres and concert halls (but not for live performances)
- Museums and galleries
- Theme parks and some remaining zoos
Non-essential shops and services remaining closed until further notice:
- Spas, nail bars, tattoo parlours, beauty salons and massage therapists
- Indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports centres
- Child’s play centres
- Bowling alleys and water parks
Shops such as those that provided agricultural supplies, building supplies, hardware stores, along with bicycle shops, laundrettes and dry cleaners, off-licenses and post offices were allowed to stay open when these non-essential shops closed. These will continue trading under the new guidelines as well.
When will charity shops open again?
All approximately 11,200 charity shops in the UK closed on March 23, when Boris Johnson announced lockdown restrictions to the UK. From June 15 charity shops were allowed to reopen like other non-essential shops, provided they adhere to the Government’s new Covid-19 secure guidelines. However, as many stores rely on volunteers who may not necessarily be able to – or feel comfortable – going back to work, it may be some time before charity shops are fully open across the UK.
What charity shops are open?
- Age UK: Opened some stores between Monday June 15 and June 22 for drop-off donations only.
- Marie Curie: A phased reopening has already begun.
- Heart Foundation: Opened some stores from Monday June 15, with the aim of having most open full again from the end of July, according to MoneySavingExpert.com.
- Scope: Reopening has already commenced.
- Oxfam: Opened some stores from Monday June 15, but store in Scotland and Wales remain closed for now.
- Cancer Research: Opened from Monday June 29, but keep an eye out for local opening times as these will vary.
- Sue Ryder: Opened from Monday June 22, but phased reopening across all stores so some won’t be open until late July or August.
You can still currently donate to charity stores across the country. However, anything donated to a charity shop will need to go into quarantine for 72 hours before it is sorted, according to new guidance issued by the Charity Research Association. You can use this website to find your local charity shop.
What are the guidelines for shops to reopen?
Boris Johnson said that the new government guidance for lockdown, “will ensure there can be no doubt about what steps they [shops] should take.”
He also said that the new guidance would lay out “the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards.”
By announcing the guidance in May, shops had “the time to implement this guidance before they reopen.”
However, according to gov.uk businesses were only be able to reopen from these dates once they had completed a risk assessment and consulted with trade union representatives or workers, and they were confident that they could manage the risks. Businesses had to also take steps to be in line with the current Health and Safety legislation. Local authorities will spot check businesses and they must follow up on concerns raised by members of the public.
As the shops opened this morning though, long queues have already started to form. For stores like Primark in London and Birmingham, those queues began long before the shops were due to open their doors.
What will shopping while practicing social distancing be like?
While shops have now opened their doors to the public again, it’s unlikely that things will go “back to normal” for a long time.
Increased heath and safety measures will try and protect shoppers but it’s important to be vigilant yourself. Parvinder Sagoo, Medical Advisor at Simply Meds says, “Do not head into town without your hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and any other items you feel you may need.
“I would also advise wearing surgical gloves especially if you are heading into a clothes store where everyone will be touching the clothes and materials, therefore increasing risk of possible transmission. I would also advise once you have arrived home to wash all your clothing items you have bought straight away to ensure they are virus free before putting them in your wardrobe.”
As we have already seen from supermarkets and other essential shops, queues will form outside to limit the number of people in the store. Parvinder advises, “Do not queue for a shop unless you have to as this most likely means it will be crowded inside. If you are clothes shopping, avoid any small or compact areas such as changing rooms or the top floor of shops where there is not much air flow and it can get hot and muggy, a haven for any possible particles and bacteria.”
Once inside the store, customers will be expected to stand two meters apart and there are one-way systems being implemented, so it’s important to take note of entry and exits doors. Those shopping will also be encouraged to only touch items they are going to buy and to pay with contactless card, if possible, at check out.
Businesses also might be required to store returned items for 72 hours before putting them back on sale and protective coverings will likely be placed over large items that members of the public often touch, like beds and sofas. Checkouts will likely remain behind screens, toilets and some changing rooms will likely be closed, and there will be no seating available for the public while they’re shopping.
Only time will tell how badly the high street will be hit by Covid-19, but some experts are debating whether the global health crisis will deter people from spending.
When will other services, like hairdressers and beauty salons, reopen?
Before the Prime Minister’s announcement about when can shops reopen, hairdressers and other beauty salons were expected to open in July at the earliest. This prediction has been confirmed over the last month, with hairdressers and other beauty salons allowed to open from July 4.
Keith Conniford is the CEO of the Hair and Barber Council. He told GoodtoKnow, “The industry is ready and wanting to get back to business as soon as possible but they want time to get all the hygiene and safety measures sorted out, so when the staff and customers do come back, everything has been done to take care of their health and safety and everything else.”
Businesses such as hairdressers and barbers have not been included in the reopening plans so far due to the difficulty of ensuring that social distancing requirements can be met. The same issues applied to fully opening doctors and dentists surgeries again.
So for the time being, the only non-essential businesses set to reopen in this month are those listed by the government.