Boris Johnson’s roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions across England have offered the light at the end of a long tunnel for non-essential retailers, and the suggestion that doors will be reopening from no sooner than April 12th this year.
The plans were detailed amid a roadmap out of lockdown delivered by the Prime Minister to MPs this afternoon. Johnson is expected to give a televised broadcast to the public at 7pm this evening.
It follows what has been many weeks of a third national lockdown with the earmarked date signifying the end of what will have been at least 14 weeks of closed doors amid the non-essential retail landscape, longer than the closures of the country’s first lockdown in March last year.
Taking priority, however, as talk turns to the country’s easing out of lockdown restrictions, is the return of all pupils to classrooms, followed by relaxed rules around socialising and the eventual reopening of non-essential shops and businesses.
During the course of the third national lockdown, food shops, supermarkets, off-licences, pharmacies, and garden centres have all been categorised as essential retailers.
Market stalls selling essential goods, petrol stations, medial providers, vets, launderettes, banks, post offices and building societies have also been permitted to remain open throughout the lockdown.
Non-essential shops include everything from clothing, books, department stores and technology stores, and of course, toy shops.
Mr Johnson said that from 12 April, under step two of lockdown easing, non-essential retail will reopen. This is along with hairdressers and nail salons.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said that retail has a low impact on the transmission of the virus.
Prior to the last lockdown, Sage recommended that “opening non-essential retail safely would require a significant effort to ensure that environments are appropriate to minimise transmission (for example social distancing and hygiene measures, ventilation)”.
This means that rules relating to social distancing, the wearing of face masks and a limit on the number of people allowed inside a shop are likely to continue when shops do eventually reopen.
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “We welcome the additional clarity provided by the Prime Minister. While we are encouraged by a plan for non-essential stores to reopen, the heavy impact of the pandemic means some may never be able to.
“The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over £22bn and counting. Every day that a shop remains closed increases the chances that it will never open again – costing jobs and damaging local communities.
“Non-essential shops are ready to reopen and have been investing hundreds of millions on making themselves Covid-secure. Government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so. Until it is permitted, retailers will need continued support from Government.
“We welcome the PM’s call ‘not to pull the rug out’ from under businesses. To this end, the Government must act on three vital issues – rents, rates and grants.
“To avoid further job losses and permanent job closures, the Chancellor must announce a targeted business rates relief from April and extend the moratorium on debt enforcement, as well as removing state aid caps on Covid business grants. This would relieve struggling businesses of bills they cannot currently pay and allow them to trade their way to recovery.”