Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

LONDON (Reuters) – Shoppers face more queuing and limited ability to try products when England’s high street retailers, department stores and shopping centres reopen next month after the coronavirus lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that outdoor markets and car showrooms in England can reopen from June 1 followed by all other non-essential retail from June 15 if the government’s tests are met.

But the stores will look very different from how they were when the country went into lockdown on March 23 as they will have to observe health and safety and social distancing regulations.

Complying with the government’s guidance will bring complexity to the trading process and higher operating and capital costs, analysts said.

The guidance for stores, laid out in a 33-page document, requires more cleaning regimes, queuing systems with one-way flows and increased signage, and fewer customers in a store at a time, with shopping with children discouraged.

The reopening only applies to England as retailers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have to wait for guidance from their devolved administrations.

As at supermarkets, which have traded through the lockdown, check-out areas in English stores will have increased screening, while store staff will wear protective equipment such as face masks and gloves. Regular hand sanitisation will be encouraged for both staff and shoppers.

Customers will also be encouraged to avoid handling products whilst browsing – a particular problem for clothing retailers.

Fitting rooms should be closed wherever possible, while goods that have been tried-on or returned by customers should be stored in a container or separate room for 72 hours, or cleaned, before being re-displayed on the shop floor.

“Queues outside stores, restricted numbers inside, no ability to browse with friends, nor to try on (or possibly even touch) clothes before the purchasing decision will all severely detract from the shopping experience,” said David Beadle of Moody’s Investors Service.

“As such, prospects of lower revenue and additional costs will see some retailers keep shops closed initially at least.”

Clothing retailer Next said on Monday it would re-open just 25 stores on June 15.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Susan Fenton)