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Coronavirus: UK retail are gearing up to reopen shops in lockdown-easing anticipation

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
People walk along a near empty High Street in Winchester, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

The UK retail industry’s lobby group, British Retail Consortium (BRC), just issued a new set of guidance to prepare companies for reopening in anticipation of the lockdown eventually easing.

Both the BRC and Usdaw union’s guidance takes into account government advice as well as lessons learned by pharmacies and food retailers, which are deemed essential, on social distancing.

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly changed everything as leaders across the globe battle COVID-19 from spreading as well as helping navigate the damage to the economy.

On 23 March, the UK government ordered the closure of all non-essential stores, as well as playgrounds and libraries, and imposed a range of drastic measures on public life, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. To date, there have been 20,000 coronavirus deaths in hospitals in Britain.

The UK’s independent budget watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), said that the UK economy could contract by as much as 35% in the second quarter of 2020 if the current lockdown persists for three months. In this scenario, unemployment is expected to rise to 10%, compared to 3.9% at the start of the year. That would equate to 2 million extra people out of work.

Meanwhile, British retail sales fell by the most on record in March and the deterioration is likely to be even worse in April.

On 24 April, the UK government said it was too early to lift the lockdown. While no date has been set for the lockdown lifting, the Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said “we need to be ready and we need to make sure that the proper preparations and measures are put in place.”

Guidance includes:

  • Providing hand sanitiser for customers;

  • Encouraging customers to visit shops alone;

  • Limiting the number of customers in shops at one time;

  • Encouraging cashless payments;

  • Keeping customers 2 metres apart.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Continued close collaboration with government, including public support for the steps retailers are taking and adequate notice to get supply chains up and running, will mean that retail businesses can start trading again slowly and safely, and customers can feel confident that they are safe to return to shops.”

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