Shops in England selling non-essential goods have reopened for the first time in almost three months.
Retailers have had to introduce strict safety measures and the High Street experience will be very different.
Amid fears about the health of the UK economy, getting a key part of the service sector running again is vital. But retail experts warned shops were unlikely to see any immediate relief.
Boris Johnson has urged people to “shop with confidence”.
He said he was “very optimistic” about stores reopening – although acknowledged that retailers did not know whether there will be a “huge wave of customers” or a “trickle”.
HMV owner Doug Putman told the Today programme that he expected a rush in the first week of trading after his shops open their doors. But he said retailers could be faced with a problem if shoppers do not return in the same numbers as before the lockdown.
“If you’ve got the same cost structure to run the business but sales are down even 20% it makes a lot of companies unviable.”
“We’re being very hesitant, we believe that it is going to be a tough year.”
Although food shops, pharmacies, banks and other essential retailers have stayed open, vast swathes of the High Street, from bookshops to clothes outlets, have been closed since 23 March.
Retailers are required to introduce plastic screens at the tills and floor markings to keep shoppers two metres (6ft 5ins) apart – measures that are already a regular fixture in supermarkets.
Other measures will include pleas not to touch items unless customers intend to purchase them and decontaminating shopping baskets after each use. Retailers are promising there will be plenty of sanitiser on hand for customers.
- Which shops are reopening on Monday?
- Can my boss force me to go back to work?
- Consumers ‘should shop with confidence’, says PM
In most clothes shops, fitting rooms will be closed. Bookshops including Waterstones intend to put items in quarantine if browsed but not bought, while some jewellers are introducing ultraviolet boxes that can decontaminate items in minutes.
There is also government funding for councils to deploy staff on the High Street to provide help and advice for both shoppers and shops.