We knew we’d missed shopping, but if pictures of swarms of shoppers queuing up to get into Primark are anything to go by, we’d underestimated just how much we’d missed a good browse.
Non-essential retailers in England have lifted their shutters for the first time since lockdown began three months ago, and it seems people couldn’t wait to scratch their shopping itch.
Early-morning images showed queues of eager punters in London, Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool and other cities waiting for big-name brands to throw open their doors.
From hand sanitiser stations on entrance to perspex screens at the tills, the high street shopping experience may look pretty different due to social distancing guidelines, but it doesn’t seem to be putting people off.
But while stores have done their part in trying to ensure customers stay as safe as possible while in store, there are also measures we can take ourselves to try to stay protected.
Be face-mask safe
We never thought face coverings would become summer’s most essential item, but here we are.
From Monday, wearing a face mask on public transport to help protect against the coronavirus is compulsory in the UK.
This news follows government advice, released last month, that suggested face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces – including on public transport and when visiting some shops.
As part of their guidance for shoppers in staying safe while browsing, some shops, such as Anthropologie, are recommending customers wear face coverings while in store.
And according to Parvinder Sagoo, medical adviser at Simply Meds, face coverings should be a must when hitting newly reopened stores.
“The main thing you should be doing to prevent possible transmissions is to wear a mask at all times,” she says.
Sagoo suggests opting for a mask that covers your mouth and nose area fully and sits tight enough on the skin.
“If you can purchase a filtered mask this is advisable, failing that a well-made, double layered mask should suffice,” she says.
Sagoo recommends keeping the mask on at all times, even in areas that are less crowded.
“If you do take the mask off,” she says, “ensure you keep it in a sealed tight container or bag and not just loosely in your handbag as it could be open to gathering bacteria.”
As Monday morning’s queues suggest, some periods are going to be busier than others, so it is worth seeking out quieter browse times. To counterbalance this, many stores, such as Uniqlo, are introducing staggered opening times.
“No doubt shops and shopping centres today will be packed,” Sagoo says. She suggests trying to keep your distance from others as much as possible, and avoiding a store altogether if it looks crowded or has a queue that is not adopting social distancing measures.
“If you are clothes shopping, avoid any small or compact areas or the top floor of shops where there is not much air flow as it can get hot and muggy, a haven for any possible bacteria,” she says.
Pack a safer-shopping kit
While many stores are introducing hand-sanitising stations and regularly disinfecting shopping baskets, it’s worth taking your own antibac essentials, such as hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes, with you.
“I would also advise wearing surgical gloves especially if you are heading into a clothes store where everyone will be touching the clothes and materials, therefore increasing risk of possible transmission,” Sagoo says.
For added peace of mind, she also suggests washing all clothing purchases to ensure they are virus-free before putting them in your wardrobe.
Social distance, social distance, social distance
“Other people are usually the problem when it comes to social distancing – you may be adhering to the rules, but if someone else isn't then this could cause risk to your health,” says Sagoo.
She suggests trying to stay alert whilst moving round the shops.
“If anyone is coming too close to you, step back and keep the two-metre rule in mind,” Sagoo continues. “If someone appears to be coughing or sneezing, then move far away from them.”
When you are queuing for the till, be mindful of your space.
“If you feel anyone is coming too close to you then politely ask them if they could move away,” she says.
“At the till, use your gloves when using the pin pad. If you do not have gloves, ensure you use hand sanitiser as soon as you are out of the store.”