Beaverbrooks, for example, which relies on shoppers trying on rings and watches, has had to put aside “limited stock” to use on rotation and bought a new cleaning solution to kill germs between wears without damaging the goods.
Beauty shops or counters in department stores have come up with their own set of rules to allow shoppers to browse safely. This means no testers, unless it is a bottle of perfume and can be cleaned easily. Staff will not be performing demonstrations and applying make-up on customers either, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association says.
To avoid losing shoppers over stringent social distancing measures some firms have come up with new ways to entice them. Mulberry, the luxury leather goods brand, will offer one-on-one and virtual store appointments at its shop in London’s Covent Garden, while make-up business Charlotte Tilbury will be running a click (or call) and collect service and will offer more classes via video calls.
Retailers’ approach to fitting rooms will differ, too. John Lewis has previously said it is likely to keep them shut initially. Reiss will steam and quarantine clothes for one day after they have been tried on.
To reopen safely brands have had to find extra cash to pay for things such as protective personal equipment and antibacterial gel at a time when they are already squeezed after a dramatic slump in sales since the nation went into lockdown.
The British Retail Consortium estimates that UK food retailers, which were allowed to stay open, have spent more than £100m on screens around tills and in stores, gloves and face coverings for staff, extra signage, increased and more frequent cleaning.
These costs are not negligible, especially for firms that sell clothes and shoes, which are already sitting on mountains of unsold stock. Protective shields, for example, can be between £92 and £132 each, according to one manufacturer.
As businesses prepare to reopen, Richard Hyman, an independent retail analyst, warns: “The first few days will feature queues of people flocking to stores up and down the country. Talk of sales records will abound and the relief will be palpable. We all desperately need to feel that normality is around the corner, but no one should mistake relaxation with a return to where we were. Nor mistake early behaviour with anything that might be sustainable.”
He points out that social distancing measures will make it difficult for non-food firms to trade profitably. Even if the average spend rises, he says, it will not offset the fact that there will most likely be fewer transactions.
The likes of Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley, Oasis and Warehouse have already toppled since the outbreak took hold. Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse have come out and said their shops will never reopen again.