Anyone who’s waited in the queue for Abecrombie’s fitting rooms or for an Apple ‘genius’ (inverted commas very much intended) can rejoice: the government is set to unveil new guidelines for retail that will allow shops to remain open 24 hours a day! Missed your retail therapy during lockdown? Grab your pyjamas, we’re going shopping…
The new initiative is designed to get as many people as possible back into shops immediately after the government lifts their ban on any people going to shops due to health concerns around COVID-19. Confused?
Luckily Robert Jenrick isn’t. The Communities Secretary wrote in The Telegraph today that he wants to get rid of bureaucracy to allow shops to trade for up to 24 hours a day throughout December and January.
While shops technically are allowed to open at all hours, they currently have to apply through a long, boring and arduous process under the Town and Country Planning Act (the sort of act that even sounds long, boring and arduous) if they want to change their shopping hours anything that’s not the usual 9am to 7pm window.
He wants to get rid of bureaucracy to get shops trading for up to 24 hours a day throughout December and January...
And it actually makes a little sense. The run up to Christmas and the January sales make for a truly grim shopping experience at the best of times, but add in the possibility of contracting a life-or-death virus from a dense throng of last-minute shoppers, and you’re probably going to stay at home and hit up Mr Amazon.
The new rules will allow for shops to remain open into the evening to spread out the buying frenzy and manage the flow of customers. With Jenrick writing:
“With these changes local shops can open longer, ensuring more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport. How long will be a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council, but I suggest we offer these hard-pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season”
The offer has already been welcomed by retail groups, with British Retail Consortium Chief Exec Helen Dickinson saying “With just over three weeks until Christmas, shoppers will welcome the additional opportunities to shop that the government’s statement supports”. And Primark has already said that it intends to make use of the relaxed rules.
Of course shops are also being asked to facilitate the new opening times by bearing the extra burden of costs and overtime, so it remains to be seen how much impact this will have. Or indeed what appetite there is for a 2am rush to your local antiques shop. Plus it will still be top-trumped by archaic trading laws which curtail Sunday opening times. But anything that makes shopping safer and less ghastly is a welcome step in the right direction.
Sadly, though, it looks like it’ll be too late for the likes of Topshop and Sir Philip Green’s retail empire, which is currently slo-mo car crashing into administration and is another sobering effect of this year’s lockdowns.