Which shops are closed?
All non-essential stores are currently closed, but the Government roadmap states that they can reopen from April 12. This includes department stores, book shops, technology stores and more high street stalwarts, which all have had to shut.
The full list of non-essential shops includes: clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock and agricultural equipment), and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These businesses will still be able to operate a click and collect service.
Charity shops also remain closed, though Maria Chenoweth, Chief Executive at TRAID, argues that they should not be classified as non-essential retail. “We’re not like other high street retailers,” she says. “Charity shops not only have to pay rent and other operational costs while closed, but also have to continue supporting the causes and people who rely on us. Every month that shops have closed, UK charities have lost £28m of funds jeopardising the sector’s capacity to provide essential services when they are most needed. There is an important debate to be had around charity shops’ classification as non-essential and the impact this has on the critical work we support.”
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What essential shops are open?
Food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, and off-licences are deemed essential retailers.
Market stalls selling essential goods, petrol stations, taxi and vehicle hire businesses, short-term loan providers, money transfer businesses, medical and dental services, vets and pet shops, funeral directors, launderettes and dry cleaners can also stay open.
Banks, building societies and Post Offices do not need to shut.
How did we get here?
The latest shop closures come after a challenging year for retailers, who were forced to shut shops between March and June in the first nationwide lockdown and again during November’s second English lockdown.
Many household names, including the Arcadia group (which includes Topshop and Burton), Debenhams, Laura Ashley, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Cath Kidston have gone into administration during the pandemic.
The Government has not yet announced any additional support for businesses affected by the winter’s Tier four closures, aside from existing measures such as the furlough scheme, which Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended until the end of April 2021.
What will change when the shops reopen?
When non-essential retail reopens after lockdown, it is possible that shops will follow the lead of supermarkets, and introduce stricter rules surrounding face coverings and social distancing.
From Jan 11, several supermarket chains announced they were clamping down against rule-breakers, beginning with Morrisons, which revealed it would bar shoppers who fail to adhere to regulations unless they are medically exempt. Following this news, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose also said they would take a tougher stance on those who failed to follow Government guidance.
Therefore, it is a possibility that similar measures, which ensure shops are Covid-secure, may be rolled out once non-essential stores open their doors at the other side of lockdown.
We can expect a much altered high street when non-essential stores reopen, as many familiar brands have gone into administration including Debenhams, Cath Kidston and the UK arm of Victoria’s Secret. Others are cutting their retail footprints, including Monsoon and John Lewis.
Some independent store owners are predicting a retail revival however, and have spent the latest lockdown investing in revamped premises and larger stores. Roo Cross is one of them: “We’re building a plant shop onsite so we’ll have women’s and men’s fashion, lifestyle, plants and coffee all on one site,” she says.