// BRC says “challenge is not over” as retailers move closer to exiting lockdown next week
// Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that non-essential shops in England will be able to reopen on June 15
// All shops reopening must follow Covid-19 secure guidance that the government issued last month
Retail bosses have warned that many firms will continue to struggle with current two-metre distancing measures in place, after the government confirmed that non-essential shops can reopen from Monday.
The BRC stressed that the “challenge is not over” for many retailers as they moved closer to welcoming customers again from next week.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus press conference yesterday, Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that non-essential shops in England – which have remained closed since first shutting their doors in late March – will be able to reopen on June 15.
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He said shops which are currently shut – such as fashion, department stores, electronics and book retailers – must follow Covid-19 secure guidance that the government issued last month.
High street chains such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Primark have already laid out plans to reopen sites on June 15 with health and safety measures in place.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said retailers have been pushing forward with their preparations for next week.
“Retailers who are not yet open have been working hard to install perspex screens, hygiene systems and apply social distancing measures,” she said.
“We hope the public will take the opportunity from next week to go out and support millions of stores up and down the country.
“Nonetheless, the challenge for these stores is not over.
“Many firms will continue to struggle as the two-metre rule will limit sales while retailers continue to face the same rent and other fixed costs.
“If the government is to limit retailers in this way, it must be prepared to provide an ongoing package of support to address the economic difficulties they will face.”
Sharma told journalists that the government was taking a “cautious view” regarding the possibility of loosening distance guidelines.
“When it is safe to do so, we will see whether you can move to a shorter distance but ultimately we keep all of these things under review,” he said.
Sharma also said plans to reopen other high street businesses – such as “restaurants, pubs, and bars, as well as hairdressers, barbers, nail bars and related services” – will happen by July 4 at the earliest.
This poured cold water of speculation that beer gardens could be reopened on June 22.
with PA Wires