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"Challenge is not over" retail leaders warn as re-opening gets go-ahead for 15 June

Lauretta Roberts
10 June 2020

Retail leaders have warned that many firms will continue to struggle with current two-metre distancing measures in place, after the Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that shops will be able to re-open from Monday 15 June.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) stressed that the “challenge is not over” for many retailers as they moved closer to welcoming customers again.

Sharma said that non-essential shops – which have remained closed since first shutting their doors 23 March – will be able to reopen on 15 June, provided they follow Government guidelines. He said shops which are currently shut must follow Covid-19 secure guidance issued last month.

Many major chains such as John Lewis, Debenhams, Primark, Dune, Kurt Geiger, Reiss, Next and JD Sports have already laid out plans to reopen stores – in some cases in a phased manner – from 15 June with health and safety measures in place.

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson, said retailers have been pushing forward with their preparations for next week. “Retailers who are not yet open have been working hard to install Perspex screens, hygiene systems and apply social distancing measures.

“We hope the public will take the opportunity from next week to go out and support millions of stores up and down the country.

“Nonetheless, the challenge for these stores is not over

“Many firms will continue to struggle as the two-metre rule will limit sales while retailers continue to face the same rent and other fixed costs,” she said.

If the Government is to limit retailers in this way, it must be prepared to provide an ongoing package of support to address the economic difficulties they will face.”

Sharma told journalists in Tuesday’s briefing that the Government is taking a “cautious view” regarding the possibility of loosening distance guidelines.

He said: “When it is safe to do so, we will see whether you can move to a shorter distance but ultimately we keep all of these things under review,”

The Business Secretary also said it plans to reopen other business – such as “restaurants, pubs, and bars, as well as hairdressers, barbers, nail bars and related services” – by 4 July at the earliest.

It poured cold water upon speculation that beer gardens could be reopened on 22 June.

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