After more than three months of empty high streets and shopping centres, non-essential retailers have been given the green light to open in England on 12 April, alongside beer gardens, gyms and hair salons.

Up until now, only a limited number of shops selling “essential” goods (primarily food shops) have been allowed to stay open, due to coronavirus lockdown rules.

But what will the shopping experience look like from next Monday? This is what you can expect.

What rules will apply in shops?

As with essential stores and public transport, face masks are mandatory while shopping, except if you are exempt.

The government is telling retailers to ask people to shop as single households or bubbles, to avoid indoor mixing.  

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Last time shops reopened in June 2020 after the first lockdown ended, the government asked shops to keep their fitting rooms closed “wherever possible”.

This time, however, shops have been told they can open their changing rooms, as long as they put safety measures in place.

Shops are being advised by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to make sure only one person is in a cubicle at a time (apart from parents and carers) and to leave a gap of “several minutes” between customers, and clean cubicles regularly.

Should we expect any other changes?

The government is advising businesses, including shops, to put in place a range of measures to minimise transmission risk to both customers and staff. 

You may notice shops no longer playing music or turning the volume down to avoid customers having to raise their voices.

Government guidance reads: “You should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other.

“This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.

“This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission.” 

Shops are also being asked to limit the number of customers they allow into stores at any given time, to manage queues in a Covid-secure fashion and, if necessary, to implement one-way systems.

Stores will temporarily be allowed to open later than usual to avoid congestion both in shops and on public transport.

Shops will be permitted to stay open from 7am until 10pm from Monday to Saturday.

Customers will be encouraged to sanitise their hands on arrival in shops and staff will, where possible, interact with customers from behind screens.

Businesses are being asked to increase the frequency of cleaning to keep surfaces hygienic.