// Thousands of non-essential stores are getting ready to make a comeback as England’s second national lockdown comes to an end
// Much of England moves to Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions, which limits social contact but allows shops to operate
// Northern Ireland & 11 council areas in Scotland, including Glasgow, remain in lockdown for another week or so
Retail business leaders hope customers will return to their local stores in the final weeks before Christmas as the current lockdown ends today.
In its place, much of England is under Tier 2 and 3 of the new Covid-19 restrictions which limits social contact between households, but allows non-essential shops to reopen.
In preparation, retailers have been working hard to make their premises safe for customers while some have organised festive events to entice shoppers.
- BRC responds to end of English lockdown news: “Retailers will be relieved”
- Shopping guidance issued on first day of Northern Ireland lockdown
- Non-essential retail to enter lockdown in 11 local councils across Scotland
As before when shops reopened following the first UK-wide lockdown, many retailers have implemented measures to limit the number of people entering shops, as well as enforcing social distancing rules, setting up hand sanitiser stations and carrying out more frequent deep cleaning.
“Thousands of retailers are looking forward to welcoming back customers,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“Safety remains the biggest priority for retailers, who have spent hundreds of millions to make stores Covid-secure.
“With billions in sales lost during lockdown, stores are looking to offer a safe and enjoyable shopping experience to bring back customers.
“Christmas is around the corner so everyone has a reason to be visiting their local shops.
“Every purchase we make is a retailer helped, a job protected and a local community supported.”
While England exits its second lockdown, Northern Ireland and 11 council areas in Scotland, including Glasgow, still have a week and a half left of their own respective lockdowns.
Wales had entered a second lockdown at the tail-end of October, which lasted 17 days and ended a few days after England started its lockdown on November 5.
The end of England’s month-long lockdown comes amid a high street bloodbath, with the jobs of around 25,000 staff at Arcadia Group and Debenhams hanging in the balance.
Some 13,000 staff at Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group face an anxious wait following the business collapsing into administration on Monday night.
On the other hand, Debenhams – which is already in administration and employs around 12,000 – said it would start a liquidation process after JD Sports confirmed it had pulled out of talks to buy the department store chain.
Debenhams said it would continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear its current and contracted stocks, while the Arcadia Group, which operates the likes of Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, also said stores would continue to trade.
Meanwhile, in a bid to liven up the West End, Westminster City Council said it would extend al fresco dining in central London for another six months.
Council leader Rachael Robathan said the scheme, which allows venues to provide “pop up” dining areas in streets, continued to be an important way of supporting the hospitality industry in London, which will fall under Tier 2 of the new restrictions.
“We have 3700 restaurants, pubs and bars in central London and they help to support around 80,000 jobs,” she said.
“Hospitality is a big employer for us and while the sector faces another tough few months under Tier 2 restrictions, at least we can support those venues who can offer outside space.”
Department store Selfridges is setting up a Christmas market outside of its London store.
Described as a “foodies’ paradise”, it will also include several rides including a giant helter-skelter.
A spokesman for Selfridges said: “Think a mini version of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland which was cancelled this year.”
For customers wanting to head to John Lewis, they are encouraged to go on the store’s website to pre-book a slot to visit their local shop up to 14 days in advance.
Meanwhile, Primark will reopen its 153 stores with longer shopping hours, while 11 stores will be open for 24 hours from 7am on Wednesday.
Ikea will open 19 stores across England, including Tottenham Court Road’s planning studio which will reopen for appointments and walk-ins.
with PA Wires