Industry cautiously welcomes shop opening plan

As the prime minister alluded to some non-essential shops being able to reopen from 1 June, industry stakeholders have warned that staff safety is what counts.

In a speech yesterday evening, Boris Johnson said that as part of phase two of the government’s plan, “we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools”, adding that more detailed guidance would be given this week.

The British Retail Consortium’s chief executive Helen Dickinson said that it is vital that the reopening of stores is based on who can do so safely, as opposed to trying to draw lines in terms of different sizes or types of shop.

“Further clarity is needed in coming days and we look forward to more details from the government,” she stated. “We need a plan for shopping as well as shops - this means a plan that allows safe navigation both to and through our retail centres - and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government to support this process.”

Michael Valdsgaard, chief executive of augmented reality solutions provider London Dynamics and formerly head of Digital Transformation for Ikea, argued that most retailers can’t wait another three weeks for an update. “They must start rebuilding online and physical storefronts now for a new normal that’s clearly here to stay.”

Meanwhile, the New West End Company - which represents 600 businesses across the Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street areas - has published its plan for reopening.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said: “Our priority is a safe re-opening of the West End, and we continue to work collaboratively with West End businesses and local authorities to put in place clear operational and logistical plans to get back to work safely.

"Having acted early to protect public health, it is right that we set an example for the nation’s high streets in helping communities rebuild confidence in spending time together outside.”

New West End Company is working with Transport for London and Westminster City Council to manage foot traffic. Plans include the introduction of clear markings on pavements to help shoppers observe social distancing, while store visitor numbers will be closely managed through marked waiting areas to the left of store entrances.

Retailers will also be advised to use responsible promotional strategies with discounting and sales kept online to avoid long queues and crowding.

Selfridges has already re-opened its food hall with social distancing measures put in place.

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