Under these plans, lockdown measures will start to be lifted from Mar 8.
Insiders have stressed that as part of the “cautious approach” to reopening, sufficient time is needed between each easement to assess the impact on infections.
Roo Cross, owner of fashion boutique Roo’s Beach in Porth, Newquay, is optimistic about the return of brick-and-mortar retail. “They cannot open up the economy too soon as we don’t want to have to go back into lockdown again, [but] we can weather this storm for a little longer if it means that we get it right and can safely trade with our shop doors open with the appropriate safety measures in place,” she says.
Aude Shelley, COO of Couverture & The Garbstore in London’s Notting Hill echoes the sentiment: “It is really exciting to be thinking about reopening and practically speaking, we are ready to go and are prepared to open whenever we are allowed to.”
For Anna Park, who owns six Anna fashion boutiques across England, an Apr 12 reopening will come later than she expected. “I know that the Government can’t discriminate between small independents and large multiples, allowing us to open first… but we’ve been shut for long enough. I feel that now we have vaccinated a good percentage of people, we should open and remain open.”
Indeed, for every week her stores remain closed, the financial implications become more serious. “Fashion is a perishable product, as soon as the season is over the goods lose value. If we don’t open soon we will miss a season that we have already paid for.”
Which shops will re-open that have been closed?
All non-essential stores are currently closed, but the Government roadmap states that they can reopen from Apr 12. This includes department stores, book shops, technology stores and more high street stalwarts, which all have had to shut.
The full list of non-essential shops includes: clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock and agricultural equipment), and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These businesses will still be able to operate a click and collect service.
According to the government roadmap, social distancing could be scrapped by the summer, although this greatly depends on whether the data shows there’s enough reductions in coronavirus cases to avoid a spike in hospitalisations.
Face masks could still be required for shops until much further into the summer – or even beyond.
Jun 21 marks the fourth step in the roadmap and the earliest point at which the country could return fully to normal living.
The roadmap document said: “Social distancing is difficult and damaging for businesses and, as a result, it is important to return to as near to normal as quickly as possible.
“Ahead of Step Four, as more is understood about the impact of vaccines on transmission and a far greater proportion of the population has been vaccinated, the Government will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission.”
We can expect a much altered high street when non-essential stores reopen, as many familiar brands have gone into administration including Debenhams, Cath Kidston and the UK arm of Victoria’s Secret. Others are cutting their retail footprints, including Monsoon and John Lewis.
Some independent store owners are predicting a retail revival however, and have spent the latest lockdown investing in revamped premises and larger stores. Roo Cross is one of them: “We’re building a plant shop onsite so we’ll have women’s and men’s fashion, lifestyle, plants and coffee all on one site,” she says.
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