The high street business rescue plan

Shop owner posting a sign about reopening her store after the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted

Shops, cafes and other businesses on high streets across the UK have had a tough time during the coronavirus. As lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed, we look at how these businesses can come back to life

The reopening of businesses on the high street is happening gradually.  The Government has laid out a staged approach for coming out of lockdown – Our plan to rebuild - but the projected dates for each stage are not set in stone.

That said, businesses will have to operate very differently once they do open, so now's the time to start preparing. Here's how some of our high street businesses could operate in the coming months.

Hairdressers and barber shops

Hair salons won't be able to open until 4 July at the earliest, but they would be well advised to think about how they will operate as demand for their services will be high.

Both hairdressers and barbers will need to change their approach to bookings to ensure there are fewer customers in the salon at any one time. A good appointment system will be key; salons could also stagger shift times and increase opening hours.

Social distancing is certainly challenging when it comes to cutting hair but there are some measures that will reduce risk. Both hairdressers and customers should wear masks. Wearing aprons and gloves is also a good idea. Once hair has been washed with shampoo it may be safe to take the gloves off.

The ubiquitous trashy mags and hot drinks will have to go for now and it will be safer to keep conversation to a minimum. Going to the hairdressers won't be the same but demand for a professional cut and colour is unlikely to wane.

Cafés, pubs and restaurants

Any food business can open as a takeaway service right now and that may well be the best way to keep trading until lockdown restrictions are eased further. This could mean bringing some of your staff out of furlough to run a reduced service.

Signing up to delivery providers such as Just Eat and Deliveroo is one option; or your own staff could become delivery drivers. You can also ask customers to buy online and collect the food in person. If you allow customers to come to your premises to order or collect food, you'll have to make sure there are social distancing measures in place.

From July, cafes, pubs and restaurants may be allowed to open if they can offer socially-distanced dining inside their premises and/or offer somewhere to eat outside.

Now's the time to update your website so you can keep customers informed and take online bookings. If you are operating a takeaway service, it's a good idea to adapt your menu so that you offer a few crowd-pleasing dishes that travel well.

You'll also need to meet government guidelines on hygiene and social distancing in the kitchen. You may need to make extra checks to ensure it is safe to open, your drivers should wear masks and gloves and customers should pay by card instead of with cash.

Clothes and shoe shops

In the first three months of 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that the textiles, clothing and footwear sectors saw a 35% decline in retail sales. Lockdown certainly didn't help but shoppers also cut back on non-essential goods as the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic became clear.

Demand for clothes and shoes is likely to bounce back but whether it returns to previous levels remains to be seen. The Government has said that non-essential retail stores may be allowed to open, in phases, from 1 June.

Clothes and shoe shops will have to put measures in place that reassure customers that it's safe to come in. Many people will continue to shop online so retailers must also make sure that side of their business is running smoothly.

In-store measures should include social distancing and, if possible, stores should have separate entrances and exits to allow a one-way flow of customers. Spaced out queues, screens at the tills, sanitising stations and card payments will also be required.

Access to changing rooms may have to be limited or withdrawn altogether. That will have a knock-on effect on returns policies if customers are unable to try on items in-store.

Like many other retail activities, clothes shopping won't be as much fun as it used to for a while and shops must prioritise customer safety above all else.

Garden centres

Lockdown has been tough on garden centres, many of which have had to throw away thousands of plants. However, some garden centres have been allowed to stay open because they also sell pet supplies which are classed as essential. And many others have found ways to sell online.

Now all garden centres can open but they are having to implement strict social distancing to keep staff and customer safe. The Government has recommended that garden centres follow the Safe Trading Guidance produced by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA).

Many garden centres are reducing the amount of car parking spaces they offer in order to control the number of people in their premises at any one time. Cafes remain closed so visits to garden centres are likely to be shorter than they once were.

Car dealerships

Car dealerships in England can now open for a click and collect service. However, showrooms will not be allowed to open until June at the earliest.

March is traditionally the busiest month of the year for car sales and dealers have been allowed to continue to sell new and used cars online and over the phone during lockdown.

Autocar reports that most dealers have been moved to a model of taking deposits for cars pending delivery - so a click and collect service would allow them to complete these transactions and deliver cars to their new owners.

This handover would involve cleaning cars and delivering keys in a sanitised package while social distancing is observed.

Estate agents

The Government has said it will allow property viewings as part of its strategy to reopen the housing market. Initially, however, these will be virtual viewings using video. In addition, estate agent offices and show homes can open. However, all this must be achieved by observing hygiene and social distancing rules.

When in-person viewings start, the guidelines say that they must be by appointment only, with no open house viewings. All parties should remain two metres apart, internal doors should be open and the occupier should vacate the property for the duration of the visit. Once the viewing has taken place all surfaces and door handles should be thoroughly cleaned.

According to government data, some 450,000 buyers have put their moving plans on hold since lockdown began. As removal companies are now allowed to operate, these moves can get going again. However, anyone with the virus, or who is self-isolating, should not be moving.

Bicycle shops

Bicycle shops were allowed to stay open during lockdown and many of them prioritised bike sales and services for key workers. Bike shops are likely to be very busy in the coming months. Sales of bicycles have already shot up and now the government has announced an investment of £2bn in cycling and walking infrastructure to relieve pressure on public transport.

Bike shops can stay safe by working on an appointment-only basis for now or operating a collect and delivery series. Customers that want repairs should make arrangements in advance and hand over their bikes outside the shop.

Gyms and fitness centres

Rules about exercising have been relaxed but that doesn't mean that the UK's gyms and fitness centres are likely to be opening just yet.

Brits can now exercise outside as much as they like and they are also allowed to meet one other person from another household (while staying two metres apart) which means that personal trainers can offer one-to-one sessions in outdoor spaces. In addition, golf, tennis and basketball can be played with members of your household or with one other person, while staying two metres apart.

Gyms are having to make big changes to their facilities in readiness for reopening. Machines will have to be widely spaced out and class sizes will be significantly reduced. Above all, gyms will need to introduce rigorous cleaning schedules that ensure equipment and other touchpoints are cleaned after every use.

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