Retailers have been asked to draw up plans to reopen stores as ministers begin considering how to gradually relax the lockdown.
Industry figures were asked to develop blueprints during a conference call with Whitehall officials, according to participants. No date has been set for reopening non-essential stores. However, sources said the Government is keen to hear from retailers as soon as possible on how the process could be managed following the preliminary discussions on Thursday.
Shops are likely to reopen in phases, with garden centres, toy, electrical and DIY shops thought to be among the first in the queue.
It is expected that the social-distancing measures already used in supermarkets will be mirrored in other shops. These include protective screens and visors for employees. Shoppers should expect one-way systems through stores as well as caps on how many people are allowed in at any given time and security guards at the door.
Retailers that kept their online business going have already had to come up with social distancing measures to keep workers in their warehouses safe. A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: “Retailers are closely following developments and await details of the Government’s exit strategy – it is vital that these are communicated as early as possible, to give retailers time to address all practicalities and prepare their supply chains.”