Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

UK and Irish retailers 'unprepared' for reopening

More than two-fifths of retailers do not feel prepared to reopen their stores after the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, Drapers’ new research has found.

As part of our ongoing investigation into Covid-19’s impact on fashion retail businesses, Drapers has conducted a third survey of the UK and Irish industry ahead of a reopening date of 1 June, after 10 weeks of enforced closure began on 23 March. The survey was open to fashion-based businesses from across the UK and Ireland between 18 April and 6 May.

Of the 403 respondents, 44% said they do not feel prepared to open up their stores after the lockdown, while 28% said they felt “somewhat” prepared, and 28% said they are ready to do so.

Shops in England could start to reopen from 1 June, if the government is satisfied that Covid-19 has been subdued to the necessary level, prime minister Boris Johnson said earlier this month. In Ireland, small retail outlets who are able to observe social distancing will be allowed to reopen on 8 June. Other non-essential retail outlets will be able to open on 29 June. Shopping centres will follow on 10 August.

“The logistics behind keeping colleagues and customers safe in retail stores is very challenging,” said one response from a high street multiple. “Especially in central London, where the vast majority of people will be travelling on public transport to get to and from the shop. I wouldn’t say we feel 100% prepared to reopen.”

One fashion brand responded: “I don’t feel we have the right tools to protect ourselves and our customers from a virus that is already mutating. Myself and [my] staff are really concerned, and do not feel comfortable opening.” 

More than half of respondents (53%) said the government is not offering enough guidance for preparing to reopen stores once the lockdown is lifted. Meanwhile, 30% said it was “somewhat” sufficient and 17% said it was providing enough.

One fashion brand in the south-west of England said: “The guidance is confusing. The government needs to provide clarity on staggered timescales for reopening, how to manage customer footfall and how to keep store staff safe.”

A London-based high street multiple source agreed: ”The government has issued more detail, but the reality is each business will need to adapt the guidance with their own environment layout, and make sensible conclusions on what’s safe and practical. More assistance to know if we are doing the right thing is needed.” 

The British Retail Consortium has published detailed guidance on reopening, but the government has yet to issue detailed information on the safety measures required for reopening.

More than two-fifths (45%) of participants said the thought of reopening their stores after the lockdown worried them, while 32% said it did “somewhat” and 23% said it does not worry them.

Retailers are trying to prepare as much as they can to create safe store environments, despite being “confused” by government guidance

Almost all participants (92%) are looking at how social distancing can be maintained in store once they reopen. Some of the measures respondents plan to implement inside and outside their store include: a 2-metre rule (74%), cashless payments (57%), limiting the number of exit and entry points (45%), and keeping changing rooms closed (28%).

Another high street multiple stated: “We are working out how to create a safe head office and store environment. We are planning stock flow, investing in PPE (personal protective equipment), plastic screens and team training to try and give our teams and customers confidence to shop with us after all this.”

The director of one north-west England independent said: “I have been moving my shop around to promote social distancing, putting hygiene stations into place, organising masks, setting up an appointment system, drafting emails, letters, texts and social media posts, so they are ready to go out as soon as we know exactly what we can do and when.”

Another London-based high street multiple said: “We are working on our plan for this now, but we will take it steady and are likely to pilot before fully reopening. We don’t expect a rush of people through the door, so that should make it do-able.”

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) predicted these measures will have a negative impact on footfall, while 20% were unsure of the effects, and 12% thought they would offer a boost.

To try to make up for any lost footfall, participants said they plan to entice people into their stores by discounting (50%), click and collect (38%), promotions such as “buy one get one free” (31%) and offering longer product return times (23%).  

Drapers has asked the UK and Irish governments for their response to the survey findings.

Drapers’ coronavirus surveys

About the survey

  • Carried out online from 6 May to 18 April
  • 403 respondents across the UK and Ireland
  • Respondents
    • Independent retailers (30%)
    • Multiple retailer or department store chain (20%)
    • Fashion brands (16%)
    • “Others” (10%)
    • Wholesale brands (7%)
    • Fashion suppliers (7%)
    • Manufacturers (6%)
    • Fashion agencies (3%)
    • University/further education (1%)

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.