26 May 2020

Screens, queues, cleaning and book quarantines – how retailers aim on reopening

26 May 2020

With the Government announcing vast swathes of the high street can reopen from June 15, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the biggest names in retail and their plans on reopening.

Marks & Spencer

The high street stalwart has continued to serve customers from its foodhalls throughout the lockdown, however its clothing and homeware sections have remained shut since March. The retailer has reopened dozens of its cafes to takeaway customers and is still selling some clothing from around its foodhall sites but warned fashion and homeware sales could be 70% lower for the current four-month period. Boss Steve Rowe said last week he intends to reopen more of M&S’s clothing operations from June and will introduce safety measures which have been in place across its open food sites already.

Coronavirus (PA Wire)


The German discounter is one of a raft of supermarket chains to witness surging demand from shoppers as its stores remained open throughout the pandemic. The retailer, which has 875 UK stores, has used safety measures such as protective screens at checkouts, distancing markers on shop floors and hand sanitiser for shoppers over the past two months. It said it will now roll out a new automated traffic light system at entrances to control the number of customers going in and out of its stores, as supermarkets look to new technology to help their operations deal with coronavirus restrictions.


Shoe repair and key cutting firm Timpson reopened 40 of its stores, which are based within supermarkets, at the start of May in the first phase of its reopening plans. James Timpson, chief executive of the business, tweeted that its high street stores and pods at shopping destinations will “remain closed now”. The chief said Timpson, which has around 2,000 units, has spent £500,000 a week on topping up staff furlough payments to 100% of their wage during the lockdown.


Bookseller Waterstones has said it will put books into a precautionary 72-hour quarantine after they are handled by customers who do not subsequently make a purchase, in one of the more unusual reopening measures. Staff will ask shoppers to leave any book they touch on trolleys to be wheeled into storage for at least three days. Screens, customer limits and one-way systems will be in place but cafes will remain closed.

Coronavirus (PA Wire)


Boots has continued to trade throughout the pandemic, with pharmacies included in the Government’s list of essential retailers. It has kept the majority of its stores open, excluding sites at travel destinations such as train stations, after introducing visors and PPE for staff. The retailer said it will now introduce enhanced safety measures, including upgraded PPE, additional screens at counters and hand sanitising stations, as it expects to welcome more customers at its high street stores. The company said it is also launching a new virtual beauty service after temporarily removing testers and face-to-face consultations from stores.


The department store chain has been one of the highest profile companies to be rocked by the virus closures, tumbling into administration last month. The company announced that at least 120 of its 142 stores will reopen when the lockdown unwinds after it was sold in a pre-pack administration deal. It has confirmed that at least 12 stores will remain closed with hundreds of job losses despite its “best efforts” to secure a deal with landlords. The retailer has continued to trade online but has furloughed the vast majority of its staff as it stores remain closed.

Coronavirus – Thu Apr 30, 2020 (PA Wire)


Homewares giant Ikea closed its doors, despite being allowed to remain trading as an “essential” retailer, to protect staff and customers. However, Ikea did turn over two of its car parks to the NHS to be used as Covid-19 drive-through testing sites. It kept the Swedish Food Court open for essential workers. Online operations continued and bosses announced a week ago it would reopen 19 stores in England and Northern Ireland from June 1, with a series of safety measures, including distancing wardens to patrol stores and reduced customers, while cafes and play areas will remain shut.

John Lewis Partnership

The Partnership has continued trading in Waitrose stores, with a series of protective measures already in place. But its department stores remain closed and chair Dame Sharon White is weighing up whether to reopen all of them, while executives say privately it is “highly unlikely”. The Government said department stores can reopen from June 15.

Frasers Group

Mike Ashley’s retail empire, which includes Sports Direct and House of Fraser, had told staff he was planning a June 1 reopening, although that will now have to be delayed. Mr Ashley also confirmed staff would get 100% of their salary for May – including those on casual contracts or furloughed. Salaries for senior management were reduced. The tycoon faced criticism at the start of the crisis for claiming Sports Direct stores were allowed to stay open during lockdown because they were “essential” to keeping the nation fit and active.


The retailer announced on the same day as the Government update that it would reopen 26 of its stores which have been closed throughout the coronavirus outbreak. It means 51 stores will be open to customers by the end of the week, having closed around 100 in March. The reopened stores will have “robust” health and safety measures in place like all the stores that have remained open, it added, with door marshals, floor markers to help maintain social distancing, screens at checkouts and no self-checkouts.

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