Shops in England welcome customers in-store for first time in three months

People will be able to try on shoes and test beds when they hit the shops on Monday, as England’s non-essential retail sector emerges from lockdown.

Department stores and high street shops are opening for the first time in three months and many will have a new look with more spacious floor plans, limited numbers of customers and plenty of hand sanitiser stations.

Businesses have had to ensure they are “Covid-secure” according to Government guidelines, and many have been keen to stress the extra precautions they are taking, from deep cleaning stores to putting items that have been tried on or returned in quarantine.

While masks are mandatory on public transport from Monday, they are not compulsory in shops and most retailers are emphasising a sensible approach, using floor markings and signs to remind people to keep two metres apart and regularly wash or sanitise their hands.

The long-awaited reopening “marks a crucial time for thousands of retailers and hundreds of thousands of jobs”, the British Retail Consortium said.

Councils across the country will be making use of the Government funding to safeguard high streets, taking measures including deploying council staff or volunteers to provide help and advice, creating more pedestrianised space and ensuring  more frequent street cleaning.

Department store John Lewis will initially reopen two of its stores, in Kingston and Poole, as part of a phased approach, with 11 others to follow on Thursday.

Primark's Westfield store
Primark’s Westfield store is among those reopening (Primark/PA)

Andrew Murphy, executive director of operations, told the PA news agency: “I think the primary thing is likely to be the capacity limits on the number of customers that we’ll allow in a store at any one time.

“To be honest, because that will be true for every moment of their experience I actually think it’s going to be the relative calmness of the experience that will probably be the main thing that strikes people.”

He said he hopes the range of options still available to customers will leave them “pleasantly surprised”, such as trying on shoes after being given disposable pop socks and lying on beds or testing pillows with single use disposable covers.

Mr Murphy added: “I’m hopeful that, while the overall atmosphere will feel a bit different to them, what they’ll actually find is a kind of pleasant surprise that it’s calm, it’s pleasant, it’s well ordered, but it’s also still got the real advantage of the physical shopping experience and the things that you can’t do online.”

Government guidance says items that have been tried on should be isolated for 72 hours or cleaned before being returned to the shop floor and that changing rooms should remain closed where possible.

Marks & Spencer floor markings
Marks & Spencer floor markings (Adrian Brooks/Marks & Spencer/PA)

John Lewis, while keeping its fitting rooms shut, is piloting a virtual personal shopper in some stores in the coming weeks.

Technology will also be used for a planned trial of a virtual queuing system for John Lewis and Waitrose, using a customer’s phone to alert them to their position as they wait in a car or run other errands.

Mr Murphy said: “We expect this situation to last well into autumn and perhaps winter so we need to be thinking ahead for how things will work when the weather’s not so great.”

Shoppers at Selfridges, which is reopening its London, Manchester and Birmingham branches, will have the chance to try before they buy, but any clothes will then be quarantined, while shoes and accessories will be cleaned with sanitising spray or steamed.

London’s West End is expecting around 80% fewer visitors when it reopens on Monday.

Primark, which will open each of its 153 English stores, has pledged to ensure basket handles are cleaned after each use and that every second till will be closed to maintain social distancing for customers and employees.

We are getting ready to welcome you back to Covent Garden, it hasn’t been the same without you. We have put in place a number of measures to ensure a safer environment for all and we encourage you to read through the changes on our website. https://t.co/aIjdV2Jmm2pic.twitter.com/bacAqDXRoo

— Covent Garden (@CoventGardenLDN) June 10, 2020

Waterstones will quarantine books which are browsed but not bought, while HMV will insist on hand sanitiser if music-lovers wish to flick through records in its A to Z section.

Many stores are encouraging customers to make purchases by contactless card payments, with limits increased to £45. Arcadia, which owns the likes of Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins, has said it will not accept cash.

Live footfall cameras will be in operation at Westfield shopping centres to manage visitor numbers and safe distancing, and the centres will use cashless car parks and have hundreds of new bike racks.

Around 90% of stores are expected to reopen at Liverpool One, with social distancing signage and markers in place throughout the complex.

London’s famous Covent Garden will have a one-way system in place when its Market Building reopens, restaurants will be open for takeaway only, and a new public seating area has been created in the piazza.

The city’s Spitalfields Traders Market will reopen initially with 50 stalls, half the number it had pre-lockdown, and will use a one-way system marked out with floor vinyls and stencils.

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS