Socially distanced shopping: the new rules
Where and how to shop safely: as London re-opens, safety measures are changing the way we shop. Here's what you need to know
Either way, ministers are encouraging us to go out and spend, to boost the flagging economy and to protect against further job losses in the retail sector. As a further incentive, shops are set up for substantial discounts to clear the stock that has accumulated over the past three months. Analysts have predicted reductions of around 70% throughout June, July and August, with many retailers holding back stock online to tempt people in store.
But this is not sales shopping as you know it: safety precautions and social distancing guidelines have changed the way shops operate, from one-in-one-out queuing systems to closed changing rooms. Here's what you need to know about where and how to shop safely.
Maintaining your distance
To allow shoppers to keep a safe distance from each other, shops are limiting their capacity, so expect the queues, floor markings, one-way systems and Perspex screens at checkout that have become standard in supermarkets. Contactless payment will also be standard, with many shops not accepting cash at all.
Sanitiser and masks
Shop assistants are decked out in personal protective equipment and most shops will have hand sanitiser positioned around the store and at checkouts. Additionally, Oxford Street has been lined with contactless hand sanitiser stations – although those shopping on the first day of reopening reported that many were empty before noon, so it's still worth stocking up and taking your own pocket bottle.
No more try before you buy
Beauty-hall testers and changing rooms remain off limits, to reduce possible contamination. As such, extended returns windows will remain (most brands have stretched from the standard 28 days to 60 or even 90 days). All returned stock will be held and quarantined for 72 hours to reduce the risk of contagion.
Booking ahead: hacks to beat the queues
Savvy shoppers keen to beat the queues can book ahead for services at certain stores. Pre-booking an appointment with Selfridges' Styling Service or Gifting Service will allow you to access fast-track entry, before enjoying a more personalised shopping experience with a dedicated assistant guiding you around at a safe distance.
Sloane Street, one of London's best spots for designer boutiques, has upped the ante to make socially distanced shopping feel as luxurious as possible. Private one-to-one appointments mean you will have the whole store to yourself and kerbside collection allows cars to wait for up to 20 minutes and to collect purchases via contactless delivery.
Oxfordshire's open-air discount shopping hotspot Bicester Village has created a 'digital queuing' system where would-be-shoppers can register ahead to book their socially distanced shopping slot. (Though the scheme has provoked criticism as accounts of poor management and crowding have prompted a petition to close the retail park).
Designer boutique Dover Street Market is open by appointment only, meaning you can avoid waiting in line and enjoy a more VIP service.
You can book a shoe-fitting service at Clarks – ideal for those with children who've outgrown everything during lockdown. Mamas and Papas personal shopping service has resumed, with a special option for shielding or vulnerable people to book an appointment an hour before general opening, so parents-to-be can try out a few different prams before investing.