Covid-19: Retail reopens today after 12 weeks of lockdown

Non-essential retail stores have today opened their doors for the first time in nearly three months, as life in the UK starts to finally return to a semblance of normality during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

It is a day of great relief for high street retailers, who have lost out on huge amounts of revenue since Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were introduced by the UK government on 23 March. Whilst some have at least been able to partially offset these sales losses by expanding their online operations, others such as Primark have not had an eCommerce channel to turn to and consequently had no income during this period.

And the early signs suggest many consumers are eager to return to the shops, with long queues already being observed outside stores such as Primark in Oxford Street. However, shopping will be a very different experience for customers compared to before the crisis, with retailers having to make their premises ‘Covid secure’ as per fresh guidance given by the government. This will include queuing becoming a regular occurrence due to the limitations put on the numbers allowed in stores and shopping centres at any one time, in addition to a raft of other social distancing and hygiene measures.

The government is strongly encouraging consumers to return to the high street and spend money, with infection rates and number of deaths caused by the virus continuing to fall. The resumption of physical retail could also play a crucial role in kick-starting the UK’s economy; figures from the ONS last week showed GDP decreased by a record 20.4% in April.

Speaking during a visit to the Stratford Westfield shopping centre in London at the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented: “I think people should shop, and they should shop with confidence, but they should of course observe the rules on social distancing and do it safely.”

Take a look at how retailers, analysts and consultants have reacted to today’s reopening, and what it means for the industry in both the short and long-term.