The changing face of UK Retail

How shops are creating COVID safe environments

Retail queue

COVID-19 has changed the face of UK retail for years to come.  From the moment the UK entered lockdown in March, which saw the closure of many non-essential shops, customers were forced to embrace online shopping as their only means of getting what they needed or wanted. With the expediential rise in click and collect and home delivery, the Office of National Statistics reported that internet sales now account for a quarter of the UK retail economy. Also reporting that the average weekly internet sales for groceries more than doubled during the pandemic.


For smaller stores, many have sought partnerships with the likes of amazon, marketplace, eBay and Deliveroo to booster sales. While larger retailers have embarked on technology partnerships to help them access technology and expertise to help increase capacity. Whilst there has been a boom in sales for some; clothing, footwear and textiles have seen sales a third lower than February with store sales significantly down.


With the spread of the virus continuing to affect our daily lives, many shops have opened, closed and opened again. This yo-yo of uncertainly, coupled with imposed operational restrictions has resulted in a raft of compulsory and advisory safety measures for retailers to implement. For many retailers this has cost money, however this investment is fundamental to regaining customer confidence and getting shoppers back in store once more.

Shopping COVID

Here we have identified just some of the health and safety measures retailers are implementing to ensure staff and customers remain safe.

  • Retailers must show clear signage setting out their store policy
  • Many shops have calculated a maximum capacity to allow customers to social distance.
  • Larger stores have implemented queue management and one way systems
  • All shops require staff to wear appropriate PPE such as face masks and visors
  • All shops require customers to wear mandatory face coverings
  • Shops should offer hand sanitiser station at entrance and key touch points
  • Disinfectant and cleaning roll should be made available to clean handles of trolleys and baskets
  • Many shops have installed clear screens at till and customer service areas to act as a barrier
  • Contactless payments are now encouraged
  • Shops should increase ventilation where possible. Open windows and doors and the increased use of ceiling fans to ensure air supply
  • Fitting rooms closures are mandatory
  • Designated pick up and return points have been set up in store to minimise handling

Whilst all, or a combination of these measures are vital for retailers to remain open in a COVID secure way, it is essential that all retail staff are protected and supported during this pandemic.  Staff training on new guidance and store systems is paramount. In conjunction with clear HR guidance on checking and reporting symptoms of COVID to employers. Preventing a possible spread of infection amongst the workforce is crucially important to not only keeping others safe but to ensure shops can continue to operate with a full cohort of staff.


Shops large and small have remained resilient, adaptable and agile in a time of constant change and disruption. Whilst the rise of e-commerce is predictable, there are many who enjoy going out to the high-street to brows, buy and benefit from the social interaction shopping provides. Shops have proved they can operate in a COVID secure manner, they must now help customers feel confident enough to return to the high street.

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