Non-essential retailers have been put on three weeks notice to reopen their doors in Wales in a move welcomed by the business community.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has told retailers to prepare to reopen, if they can adhere to social distancing, at the Welsh Government’s next lockdown review decision around June 19th.
Supermarkets, corner shops, banks, pharmacies and petrol stations have been able to remain open during the coronavirus lockdown, but that list could grow in Wales after the next review decision.
This could include shops selling things like clothes, toys, books and electronics, as well as indoor markets.
In England, non-essential shops have been given the go-ahead to open their doors again from June 15.
Mr Drakeford said he was “signalling to businesses across Wales that they may begin preparations to be ready to resume activity in these areas, should the evidence support reopening.”
FSB Wales welcomed the announcement, but called for funding support for firms to help them with cost of social distancing requirements.
FSB Wales policy chair, Ben Francis, said: “It is welcome news that retail businesses should now prepare to reopen following the next review in three weeks’ time – firms will very much consider this to be the starting gun on reopening Wales. There will be a clear expectation from businesses that they are able to open in a few weeks’ time, providing that the R rate continues to drop.
“This steps up the need for businesses to benefit from a Social Distancing Grant Fund which would help those firms that might need to make significant adjustments to their premises in order to comply with social distancing.
“This will help firms meet the financial cost of reopening under social distancing rules at a time when they have potentially been unable to earn over the previous three months.”
Heather Myers, chief executive of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said: “The balance between protecting health and widely re-opening the economy is understood, and whilst businesses are asking for a reduction in the restrictions to enable them to re-start and recover, they balance this with the need to keep their workforces and workplaces safe.
“Although it may feel frustrating, because essentially little changes, what is now vital is clear guidance to give businesses time to plan for a safe return.
“We now know that there will be clarity on the re-opening of non-essential retail, schools and some parts of the economy in the next three weeks and many businesses will be focussing on June 18 as an opportunity to restart.
“As the recovery is likely to be phased, urgent consideration needs to be given to seasonal industries that rely on the summer period for their revenues. Tourism and hospitality must now become a key focus.
“Across Wales, manufacturing and service industries are urgently seeking guidance to allow them to safely re-open and protect their stakeholders and employees. Creative thinking needs now to be applied to funding solutions for the businesses as they open to ensure they survive.
“However, we still need clarity on the reopening of schools, access to childcare, and the safe use of public transport before the economy can be fully opened.
“We will continue to work with the Welsh Government to ease the restrictions, as soon as it is safe to do so, and the decision today demonstrates that this is the direction of travel.”
Sara Jones, head of the WRC, said: “Whilst this announcement provides some degree of clarity on the route ahead for the Welsh retail industry it does not provide a definitive timescale beyond the next review date in three weeks’ time. What retailers want most of all is to get back to trading, looking after customers and providing the goods and services we all need and want.
“We need a firm timetable to work towards to enable our retailers to refine and communicate their plans with their work forces and customers.
“Retailers have already been investing significantly and working hard to implement the necessary measures to operate safely, to protect staff and customers.
“The WRC and Usdaw have supported shopkeepers by jointly producing a social distancing implementation guide, published four weeks ago, which draws on the lessons learnt by pharmacies, supermarkets and other essential retailers. We are working with Welsh Government officials to ensure this is widely adopted to support business, colleagues and consumers alike.
“Whilst retailers across the border have more certainty on timescales, Welsh retail remains ready to play its part in getting Wales’s economy moving once more and look forward to more certainty from the Welsh Government on when that date might be.”
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