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LONDON – British retailers have demanded clarity from the UK government over when physical stores can reopen. The UK Government recently released a 50-page dossier which said non-essential retail businesses are to remain closed for now. This means the likes of Primark, H&M, Zara and other UK high street stalwarts will remain closed until early-mid June at the earliest. Among those, Primark in particular will be feeling the pinch as the business does not have an ecommerce channel.

The UK government’s new ‘plan to rebuild’ suggests the aim is to begin reopening some ‘non-essential’ businesses in phases from 1 June, however, stores will only be opened if it is considered “safe to do so.” Here, retailers will need to “follow the new Covid-19 secure guidelines.”

The UK Government has been accused of lacking clarity and issuing conflicting statements with regards Covid-19.

Another potential stumbling block to stores opening is the unions which appear to be spoiling for the fight at the present time and are likely to object to store openings on safety grounds.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “We share the view of the Prime Minister that safety is what counts when determining when shops can reopen. Already retailers around the country are working on plans for reopening safely and with all necessary social distancing measures in place. The BRC and Usdaw have supported this process with our own social distancing guidance, learning from the experiences of thousands of supermarkets and other essential retailers. It is vital that the reopening of stores is based on who can do so safely, as opposed to trying to draw lines in terms of different sizes or types of shop.

“Further clarity is needed in coming days and we look forward to more details from the Government. We need a plan for shopping as well as shops – this means a plan that allows safe navigation both to and through our retail centres – and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government to support this process.”

Total UK retail sales fell 19 per cent in April 2020 on a like for like basis compared to April 2019. This is by far the largest fall since British Retail Consortium began monitoring such figures 25 years ago.

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