IN a little under two weeks, non-essential retail outlets will once again be able to open their doors to the public.

This follows the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that they can reopen from June 15, provided progress continues to be made in the fight against coronavirus.

Non-essential retail has been hit extremely hard by the shutdown necessitated by the Covid-19 crisis. Smaller retailers have been particularly badly affected, so the Federation of Small Businesses welcomes this move – provided of course that it can be implemented safely.

The advance notice of this planned reopening is extremely welcome, as it will allow time for smaller retailers to plan ahead and adapt their premises. This is important, because here will be a number of practical issues to overcome to maintain a safe environment for workers and customers.

For example, while customers have been able to maintain two-metre distancing when queuing for supermarkets and other stores with large car parks or grounds, that will be more challenging to achieve in a traditional high street environment where the entrances to neighbouring shops are often just a few metres apart. In addition, the inevitable restrictions on the number of customers allowed into retail premises at any one time, will impact upon turnover and staffing levels.

What’s more, there will be a cost to retailers that have to adapt their premises in line with distancing advice and regulations.

These additional costs come at a time when, according to recent FSB research, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of small retailers have experienced a very negative effect on cash flow due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

These businesses mustn’t be deterred from reopening simply because they don’t have the upfront cash to pay for measures to adapt their premises in line with distancing regulations.

That’s why FSB is engaging with the government and local councils to ensure that as many non-essential small retailers as possible are safety-compliant and financially able to reopen on June 15.

For those that do, the support of local customers and shoppers will be key to helping them recover from weeks of lockdown and lost trade.