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As the UK and Ireland creep closer towards a coronavirus lockdown, non-food retailers are struggling with an alarming drop in consumer demand. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stepped up social distancing measures with the public urged to work at home and stay at home wherever possible.
The repercussions for retailers are devastating, though Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today announced a package of measures to support businesses through this unprecedented time including a year-long business rates holiday for all retailers and business loans to whoever needs them at attractive rates.
While many non-food retailers have made the decision to shut-up shop until further notice (and in most cases at least until 28 March), others are trying to encourage shoppers to make a trip to their stores and have undertaken special measures to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
Here is our round-up of those special measures, which are in place now and which we anticipating remaining in place after a shut-down with the Government advises that the Coronavirus fight will be a year-long endeavour at least.
Cancellation of in-store events
Danish brand GANNI, which recently opened a store in London's Soho, is among the many retailers to cancel all in-store events. Its retail stores remain open for now, however it will be minimising the number of people in stores at one time, though with footfall alarmingly slumping over-crowding seems unlikely in any store right now.
Almost every retailer has sent a communique to customers to say their stores will be subject to stricter sanitation with continuous cleaning of surfaces and door handles a priority. Some staff are advised to wash their hands every 20 minutes with hand sanitisers on-hand for staff and customers. Stores with sinks, such as toiletries brand Lush, are inviting customers in to use them for free.
Several brands are implementing practical measures to help with reduced staff numbers and to reduce customers' contact with stock, including closing changing rooms.
"Contact-free e-commerce delivery" for those self-isolating
As demand for online deliveries has increased, George at Asda, for instance, is asking if customers are self-isolating to let them know when placing their order. Delivery drivers are leaving deliveries where the customer requests to avoid physical contact, and it is also opting to also use bags rather than the company's usual totes for delivery for hygiene reasons. Drivers will also wear gloves when they’re delivering to anyone who is self-isolating.
Independent mini chain IRIS is among the many retailers to announce it will no longer be accepting cash in store, minimising hand-to-hand contact and the potential spread of the virus from notes or coins.
Some consumers are calling for banks to temporarily raise the £30 contactless payment limit to avoid consumers having to touch payment terminals to enter pin numbers.
Curtailed trading hours
To avoid staff and customers travelling at peak hours, many retailers, including luxury department store Selfridges, apparel chain Gap and supermarket Tesco have placed restrictions on trading hours. This will also enable the retailers to cope with reduced staff numbers as employees fall sick and/or are placed in self isolation for 14 days.
While the UK has yet to close schools and enforce a shut down of non-essential retail, many global retailers, including Nike, Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch have closed stores temporarily, and UK-based businesses are beginning to follow suit in anticipation that the Government will force closures soon. Boden, MATCHESFASHION and Browns, for instance, are all closed at least until the end of the month.