Non-essential retailers in England will reopen in April as part of the country’s “cautious” plan to exit lockdown, prime minister Boris Johnson announced Monday afternoon.
Speaking to MPs at the House of Commons, Johnson set out a four-step plan to ease lockdown restrictions in the coming months.
In the first stage, students will return to school from 8 March, then outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed from 29 March.
The second stage will see the reopening of non-essential retailers, alongside outdoor hospitality on 12 April.
Cinemas, hotels, and sporting events will reopen in stage three from 17 May, while from 21 June the last stage will see the final sectors open, such as nightclubs.
Johnson stressed that each phase of lockdown easing relied on the continued successful rollout of the vaccines and evidence that they are working effectively.
More bad news for retailers
The lockdown announcement will certainly sting for retailers who were hoping they might be able to reopen for Easter, and who have faced three national lockdowns since the beginning of the pandemic, including one during the important Christmas and January sales period.
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), welcomed Johnson’s roadmap but warned of the heavy impact the remaining lockdown will have on businesses.
“While we are encouraged by a plan for non-essential stores to reopen, the heavy impact of the pandemic means some may never be able to. The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over 22 billion pounds and counting,” Dickinson said. “Every day that a shop remains closed increases the chances that it will never open again - costing jobs and damaging local communities.”
Dickinson said non-essential shops have been investing “hundreds of millions” on making themselves Covid-secure, and urged the government to allow them to reopen “as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so”.
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