London’s high streets to buzz from today, as English retail is back in business

oxford street england united kingdom

England, primarily London, always attracts shoppers from around the world. Which traveller in the world wouldn’t like to shop at Oxford Street, Knightsbridge, Bond Street or Covent Garden?

After 83 days of coronavirus lockdown, non-essential stores in England reopened their doors on Monday, hoping to get the tills ringing again and start a long road to recovery.

The stores have been closed since March 23 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a lockdown to stem the spread of the virus. While outdoor markets and car showrooms reopened on June 1, today witnessed the big return to business for retailers.

According to a Reuters report, the scenario applies only to England with stores in Scotland and Wales waiting for guidance from their devolved administrations on when they can resume trading. Non-essential stores in Northern Ireland reopened on Friday.

Getting shoppers spending again is key to Britain’s recovery after official data on Friday showed the economy shrank by a quarter over March and April.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reckons the lockdown has cost non-food stores 1.8 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) a week in lost revenues.

Stores will look very different from before the lockdown as they will have to observe hygiene and social distancing regulations. Shoppers face queues outside, restricted numbers inside and limitations on trying products.

Some chains are reopening all their English stores, while others are taking a phased approach. According to Reuters, Fashion chain Primark, which with no online offer has not taken a penny in Britain during the lockdown, plans to open all its 153 stores in England. Marks & Spencer, which has traded online and kept its food halls open, will reopen the majority of its clothing and homewares selling space. Its rival Next is reopening just 25 stores, while department store chain John Lewis is reopening just two.

Numbers of shoppers in Britain’s high streets, retail parks and shopping centres in May were 81.6% lower than that the same month, a year ago, as most non-food stores remained closed due to the coronavirus lockdown, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said. The footfall data showed a slight improvement on the 84.7% decline seen in April as some garden centres and homeware shops reopened during May, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, keen to see the UK economy start recovering from a coronavirus hammering, said on Sunday he was “very optimistic” about stores reopening. BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson cautioned that the reopening of non-essential shops was unlikely to bring immediate relief for retailers who had been under immense pressure for three months.

“A mix of low consumer confidence and limits on the number of people able to enter stores mean that many shops will continue to suffer lower footfall – and lower sales – for some time to come,” she said.