Covid-19: Retail calls for more clarity on PM's store reopening plan

Retailers and consumers require more clarity from the government regarding how stores should reopen after the coronavirus-prompted lockdown of shops across the UK is lifted, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday (10 May) what he described as the “first sketch of a road map for reopening society”, and part of that “conditional” plan was the reopening of ‘non-essential’ retail premises. The majority of stores across the UK have been closed since 23 March, when Johnson urged only those selling ‘essential’ goods to remain open to help halt the spread of Covid-19.

Yesterday, in a public address to the nation, the prime minister said the UK will remain in lockdown, but provided a rough estimate for getting the economy moving again. There are very few changes to the lockdown measures announced in March, although he hinted at efforts being made for retailers to reopen stores from 1 June, and for hospitality providers to start some form of operations from the beginning of July – assuming the government is confident infection rates are not set to spike again, and reopening is safe.

Responding to the announcement, Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, said: “Further clarity is needed in coming days and we look forward to more details from the government.

“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.”

She added: “We share the view of the prime minister that safety is what counts when determining when shops can reopen.

“Already retailers around the country are working on plans for reopening safely and with all necessary social distancing measures in place. The BRC and [the shopworkers’ union] Usdaw have supported this process with our own social distancing guidance, learning from the experiences of thousands of supermarkets and other essential retailers.”

Dickinson said it is crucial the reopening of stores is based on those which can do so safely – rather than trying to draw lines in terms of different sizes or types of shop.