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Retailers warn government they need several weeks' notice to exit lockdown

Lauretta Roberts
23 April 2020

Retailers have warned the government they will need several weeks' notice of any potential re-opening as they will need to introduce new safety measures and potentially source PPE for workers.

The British Retail Consortium had written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma to alert him of the logistical challenges surrounding the re-opening of non-essential retail.

In a letter to the political, BRC CEO Helen Dickinson also urged the Government to ensure it showed support for non-essential retail to help "stimulate consumer demand, reassure the workforce and avoid the confusion that existed immediately after the 23 March lockdown announcement".

Dickinson added that retailers were awaiting guidance from the Government about any social distancing measures that might need to be instituted in-store and whether staff will be required to wear PPE.

In the grocery sector, which has been open during the crisis, retailers have instituted measures such as limiting the number of shoppers in-store, implementing queuing systems at entrances and checkouts to keep shoppers two metres apart and installing sneeze guards at tills.

It seems likely that store hours will be limited in certain areas and retailers will impose their own limits, such as phasing re-openings, to ensure they are focusing on those stores where demand is likely to be highest.

In her letter, Dickinson said: "We recognise that it will be complex to decide what can reopen when, with location, public transport, policing, and many other matters to be considered.

"Retailers are ready to be flexible and, in some instances, could potentially stagger, reduce or increase opening hours to support wider needs."

Dickinson noted that re-opening was likely to be a fraught time with staff and consumers anxious about returning to public spaces.

Westminster has yet to issue its exit plan for lockdown but today Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon released an outline with suggested points that she stressed were up for discussion.

The Scottish Government is suggesting limiting retail hours and instituting social distancing measures in-store. Crucially for workers with school age children she suggested Scottish schoolchildren might only return to school part-time so that class sizes could be kept smaller.

Pubs and other social venues are likely to be closed for some times and large public gatherings would not take place this year, the “Looking beyond Lockdown” report suggested. Industry and public are being asked for their feedback.

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