Clarity welcomed by shops over reopening times
By Rob Freeman | 26th May 2020
Business leaders have welcomed much-needed clarity from the Government to retailers with the news shops are on track to reopen on June 15.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all non-essential shops in England can reopen from that date with outdoor markets and car showrooms returning from June 1.
Many retailers have expressed disappointment they will not reopen at the start of the month, as they initially thought, but the announcement of easing lockdown restrictions has been broadly welcomed.
The British Retail Consortium said it provided "much-needed clarity on the route ahead" while the Confederation of British Industry said new guidance on measures to protect staff and customers would help to open "safely and securely".
Sam Holliday, the Federation of Small Businesses' development manager for Gloucestershire, said: "It is vital for the short, medium and long-term viability of Gloucestershire's economy that we reopen businesses in a safe and ordered way as soon as we can.
"The decision to give the green light to retail shops to start trading again from June 15 is very good news for all those in that sector as well as the wider business community.
"The most important thing is that this is all done with the safety of both staff and customers as the paramount concern."
He continued: "I am sure we have all been impressed with how the big supermarkets and many smaller essential stores have been able to open in a safe and sensible way so far and I'm sure with time to plan for it many of our other great retail shops will be able to put measures in place to ensure they can open their doors with confidence on June 15.
"Of course, it will still be down to individual retailers to decide if they feel their staff and their shop infrastructure will be ready by June 15 but for those that believe they can open safely then this is a great opportunity to restart their businesses and give themselves a fighting chance of getting through this coronavirus crisis. It is a move to be welcomed."
Cheltenham BID director Kevan Blackadder felt the announcement provided "some real clarity" but did admit it had left some retailers disappointed.
He said: "A number of our businesses had been working towards June 1 and are disappointed at the delay.
"One even had to send home a significant number of staff who had come in to prepare for opening next week.
"But others, including Scott Lahive (manager of Regent Arcade) say that it is a positive that retailers have been given this much notice so that they can prepare in a safe manner for customers and staff.
"It should also mean that everyone will open together rather than piecemeal."
The Government's announcement has been backed with new guidance on what retailers need to do to make their shops COVID-19 secure.
"There are still concerns that much advice is still needed from the Government," said Mr Blackadder. "One national retailer says that there could be queues on main streets because smaller shops will only be able to admit limited numbers of customers and that could cause difficulties for everyone with social distancing.
"Sophie Scarrott of Keith Scarrott Shoes is planning to open by appointment only to enable her to control everything in a safe environment while offering a personal service.
"A successful online marketing campaign during the lockdown has actually seen her sales grow year-on-year."
With online sales booming during the lockdown, there have been concerns customers may be reluctant to return to the high street
"Sophie and Alex Rose, of Beards Jewellers, say the 'shop local' message will be really important and think that Cheltenham can stand out from other destinations because of he excellence of our independent retailers," said Mr Blackadder.
"I'm delighted Cotswolds Markets have confirmed that they will be opening their Farmers' Market on June 12, which is its normal date."
Peter White, centre manager for King's Walk in Gloucester, welcomed the news but admitted there was plenty of work to do before June 15.
He said: "We are looking forward to reopening and customers coming back - albeit in a very different environment than they were used to.
"We'll be working with our tenants to make sure this is a safe place by adhering to the government guidelines.
"One of the many issues we face is that King's Walk is an open scheme with no doors, so we are going to be using plenty of two-metre guidance signage and our security team will be on hand to help customers and any queues that may form outside stores."
He continued: "More challenging will be the stairwell and the lifts but I'm more than confident we'll find and have a solution in place by the time we open."
With the need for social distancing, increased safety measures and winning over public confidence, Business West's Gloucestershire director Ian Mean admitted reopening parts of the high street is not going to be easy.
He said: "All this is good news for the local economy but one of the big questions is how many of our small shops will be able to afford to open again?
"And another big question is how wary people will be about going back to these non-essential shops after so long in lockdown and just basically buying food."
While the latest announcements will see retailers return, many traders are still waiting until at least July 4 under the Government's phased plan to reopen.
Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons and hotels are among the sectors not included in the latest phase of reopening.
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