With the clock ticking down to 1 June, the Government published its timetable and updated Guidance detailing the phased re-opening of non-essential retail stores on Monday 25 May. This article outlines what has changed since our earlier insight and the further steps which retailers may wish to consider prior to re-opening.

The phased re-opening

After much anticipation, the phased re-opening announced by the Government now consists of two phases only:

  • From 1 June – car showrooms and outdoor markets can reopen as soon as the COVID-19 secure measures are in place
  • From 15 June – all other non-essential retail businesses can reopen, again providing that the COVID-19 secure measures are in place.

While non-essential stores (aside from those mentioned above) are now not set to be able to re-open until 15 June, in the meantime, click and collect services can be offered, providing of course that the COVID-19 secure guidelines and social distancing measures can be adhered to. This is permitted under the amendments made to Regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations which now provide that a reasonable excuse for leaving a person's home includes going out to collect goods which have been ordered from a business in any way permitted under Regulation 5(1)(a) i.e online, phone/text and postal orders.

The updated guidance

The Government's press statement which accompanies this indicates that the Guidance has been updated following input and feedback from various bodies, including both trade organisations and individual retailers. It also reiterates that it will work with the HSE and local authorities to continue to carry out spot checks and to follow up on concerns raised by members of the public.

While the principles behind the Guidance have not changed, some sections of it have been expanded on to detail further specific measures which retailers may wish to consider in its planning and preparation for re-opening. Examples of these measures include:

  • measures to enable staff to work in separate and distinct teams or partnerships, to reduce the number of people that they are in regular and maintained contact with
  • measures to manage traffic and queuing in communal areas in shopping centres and similarly in shopping precincts, bearing in mind that many shops will need to implement some form of queuing system to control the numbers in-store at any one time
  • encouraging consumers not to handle products while they are browsing – make up and cosmetic products counters and stores in particular should think about removing tester products or decanting these into small give-away pots so customers can try them safely at home
  • encouraging customers to shop alone where at all possible
  • fitting rooms should remain closed wherever possible, given the challenges involved in operating these safely. Where trying on is permitted, customer assistance by staff should be curtailed
  • storing returned items for 72 hours or ensuring they are cleaned before returning them to the shop floor
  • covering furniture items with protective coverings and either cleaning these or replacing them on a regular basis i.e after customers have tried the products out
  • cleaning customer touchpoints after each use – this includes cleaning procedures for car showrooms to follow after each demonstration or handover, as well as those outlined in the earlier guidance
  • the addition of a much more detailed section on workforce management, covering shift patterns and staff grouping or team arrangements, communications and training among other issues.

Overall, the updated Guidance provides additional sensible and helpful guidelines and issues for retailers to consider and adapt to their own store environment. The expanded areas outlined above have drawn on the experience of those essential retail stores which have been open throughout, coupled with additional insight and thoughts from those in the process of planning to reopen. While questions around specific circumstances and arrangements will undoubtedly emerge, it should enable retailers to use the additional time until 15 June to not only implement the Guidance, but also to engage with customers on the steps being taken in advance of that date.