Last week, some non-essential retail stores around the UK opened their doors for the first time since going into lockdown in March.
At department stores like John Lewis & Partners and Selfridges, and shops like H&M and Mint Velvet, as per government guidance staff returned to work and customers got back to spending, albeit with a few noticeable changes.
Although this reopening signals a return to some sort of normality, the days of afternoons spent wandering around shops, stopping for a cup of tea with family or friends will remain a memory for now as the shopping experience has changed following the government guidance.
We had an insight into exactly how the act of shopping would change early in the coronavirus pandemic, through the safety measures introduced in essential retail like supermarkets and pharmacies.
But, as the non-essential retail stores reopen, it won’t just be about wearing face coverings, using hand sanitiser, queuing to get into stores, following a one-way system, abiding by the 2m floor markings, getting familiar with Perspex separating you and the cashier and the encouragement of contactless payment.
New guidance added to the list for non-essential retail include quarantining returned items, closing store changing rooms, offering customers more online and virtual shopping services and encouraging customers who do come into stores to shop alone or with their households.
To help make your post-lockdown shopping trip as enjoyable and successful as possible, we spoke to high street retailers and shopping experts to bring you their top tips for navigating retail in the current climate.
“For the time being at least, a bit of forward planning will be necessary before going out to the shops,” said Wendy Spinks, Commercial Director at St Pancras International which is home to over 20 retailers, including luxury and high street brands.
She added: “Being organised and thoughtful ahead of your shopping trip will make for a much easier experience.”
Check the store opening times
Before you head out to the shops, make sure to check the opening times of the stores you wish to visit as many retailers will be operating on reduced hours.
“You should check retailer and shopping destination websites for up to date opening hours before, as stores will be operating at reduced or staggered hours,” Wendy said.
The government has advised retailers and neighbouring businesses work together to stagger opening hours in an effort to avoid overcrowding and reduce the demand of public transport at key times throughout the day.
Some smaller retailers, like women's fashion brand Mint Velvet, are encouraging shoppers to call ahead before their visit to double check opening hours.
“We are suggesting that customers ring stores ahead of a visit just to confirm their opening hours, as they are subject to change,” Mint Velvet’s co-founder and CEO Liz Houghton told us.
Like supermarkets, some retailers are also offering dedicated shopping times or queues to the elderly, vulnerable and NHS staff. John Lewis & Partners is offering vulnerable customers the opportunity to be ‘fast-tracked’ through the queue, while Selfridges is offering key workers priority entry to stores.
Know your fit before shopping
While many retailers have closed their fitting rooms for the reopening, they are instead encouraging customers to use online tools to help them find their perfect fit before coming into stores.
Marks & Spencer has paused its bra fitting service in stores but is encouraging customers to make use of its online Bra Size Calculator before purchasing in store.
John Lewis is offering virtual services including virtual nursery advice, virtual personal styling appointments and a virtual home design consultation to help customers find exactly what they are looking for, in preparation for their in-store visit or online orders.
Similarly, Mint Velvet is offering private appointments for shoppers when stores are closed to the public, as well as personal telephone and video consultations in selected stores to help customers enjoy their shopping experience in a way they feel most comfortable.
“More than ever our stores will be the escapism our customers need, and we want to make the shopping experience as enjoyable as possible,” Liz told us, but said that customers should “only come to store if they feel well and confident to do so.”
Some retailers, like clothing and homeware brand Gant at St Pancras International, have chosen to open one of their fitting rooms but with constant staff monitoring and cleaning between customer use.
“In the case of the Gant store, there will always be a member of staff monitoring the fitting rooms so it's controlled when the customers are entering. Guests will use anti-bacterial gel before entering and the clothing that does not get purchased will be put into the spare changing room and quarantined for 72 hours before being put back out into the store. The changing rooms will also be cleaned in between customers entering,” Wendy said.
Remember store guidance when shopping
Just like with supermarkets and other essential shops, non-essential retailers will be limiting the number of customers in stores at any one time, with staff on the doors to ensure a safe but steady flow of shoppers.
“Be prepared with your hand gel and face covering,” said Wendy. “Ultimately, it’s important to keep safety in mind at all times – be respectful of those around you, but also enjoy it! Be prepared to wait a little longer than normal in places and be mindful of keeping your distance from other shoppers and staff, but don’t let this put you off.”
Other measures may include:
- One-way systems
- 2m distance markings
- One household to a lift at any one time
- Perspex screens at cash desks
- Staff wearing face masks
- Contactless Click & Collect pickups
- Contactless returns procedures
- Increase of the contactless payment limit to £45 opposed to the standard £30
- Extended returns periods
- Quarantining items that have been returned, tried on or touched for at least 48 hours
Check the store’s website for more information on their specific guidelines.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
In need of some positivity or not able to make it to the shops? Enjoy Good Housekeeping delivered directly to your door every month! Subscribe to Good Housekeeping magazine now.
You Might Also Like