Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that nearly all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be removed on 19 July. This concludes the four-step roadmap out of lockdown which began in March.
After a month’s delay, the allusive ‘Freedom Day’ is nearly upon us. With eighteen months of national lockdowns and varying levels of restrictions, it can’t come soon enough for business owners. The end of social distancing rules will finally allow customers to shop without the frantic search for a face mask before entering a store. Perhaps most exciting of all; the change in legislation will enable large-scale events to finally resume.
What will change?
After many delays and changes in policy – it can be difficult to ascertain what next Monday really means for the United Kingdom.
The most controversial change is the decision to make face coverings voluntary in all settings – including shops, hospitality and public transport. Despite the general policy of leaving the public to exercise their personal judgement in regards to face coverings, Health Secretary Sajid Javid stated that there will continue to be situations where mask wearing will be ‘expected and recommended’.
There will also be a relaxation of the “one-metre plus” rule on social distancing. The only circumstances where it will continue to be relevant is at a border, where people from red and amber list countries will still be stopped from mingling with each other.
The requirement of scanning of QR codes when entering restaurants, gyms, or any other venues will also be scrapped. Businesses will no longer be obligated to collect customers’ contact tracing details.
Last, but certainly not least – all businesses that have remained closed throughout the pandemic; including nightclubs and other venues, will be able to reopen with no caps on capacity. Once again, mass events, such as music festivals, can restart.
Celebrating ‘Freedom Day’
Over the past month, retail sales have been driven by Euro 2020, Wimbledon and, from next week, the Tokyo Olympics. Despite narrowly missing the trophy, the stunning performance of the England football team successfully lifted the country’s spirits after a challenging year.
‘Freedom Day’ presents a great opportunity for businesses to capitalise on the public’s newfound desire to celebrate. Many retailers across the country have planned special themed events and promotions to mark the removal of coronavirus restrictions.
It’s not over yet
While it’s likely that the lifting of restrictions will have a positive impact on the growth and survival of pubs, restaurants, shops and salons across the country – some businesses remain apprehensive. There’s no escaping that the proposed return to ‘normality’ has been somewhat tainted by Boris Johnson’s stark warning that the pandemic is far from “over”.
The health and safety measures implemented by the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have instilled vulnerable people with a sense of security when venturing outside. Whether shopping, meeting friends outdoors or dining outside in a pub/café; mask wearing combined with social distancing has been instrumental in allowing many to relax and enjoy a slither of normality.
If face coverings and social distancing are completely abandoned – next Monday won’t be freedom day for many in England. Some businesses have acknowledged this and have decided to continue to communicate COVID safety guidance within their establishments, post 19 July.
We’re all now facing a situation where the environment we’re operating in, no matter what sector you’re in, is dynamic. Things are changing faster than any of us can keep up with, let alone control – therefore, clear and concise customer communication is a must.
Despite the concerns, there is much to look forward to as business booms and the economy recovers. It’s clear that there’s strong public urge to get back out to retail areas. Despite the challenges of the past year, both the great British shopper and British retailers are resilient animals and will help build a new future for shopping together.
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