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How businesses can reopen after coronavirus lockdown

Small businesses have been hit hard by the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown. Confidence is at an all-time low and it’s hard to know what’s coming next and how to prepare. We examine the guidance and main considerations for reopening across four main industry sectors; retail, hospitality, tourism and trades.


From 12 April 2021, many non-essential shops will be able to reopen their doors. 

What is in the government guidance for retail? 

  • Put in place measures for social distancing at all times unless it’s absolutely necessary. This should be 2 metres, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable.
  • Review inbound and outbound deliveries to make them non-contact and less frequent where possible.
  • Keep the workplace clean, encourage handwashing and sanitation and clean customer fitting rooms after each use. 

Read the government guidelines for shops and branches.

What are the main considerations for retail?

  • Think about how you can create or extend your online offering and consider offering local deliveries.
  • Use floor markings, separate entrances and exits and staff to help direct customers where possible to maintain social distancing.
  • Limit the number of staff and customers in the shop at one time. 
  • Make adjustments to the shop layout and consider installing protective screens for customer-facing roles such as till operators.
  • Consider taking contactless payments only.

“We have been fortunate enough to remain open during the lockdown as we are classed as an essential business. We have adapted by allowing only one customer in the shop at a time, refilling containers on their behalf and sanitising surfaces in between each customer.

“Our regulars have continued to shop with us, and despite a fall in foot traffic, we have met many new customers, some of whom were seeking products in high demand (flour, pasta and cleaning supplies), which they were unable to find in larger retailers. Currently, we are operating temporary business hours from 10am to 4pm, but we plan to return to regular hours and allow two to three customers back into the store as the government guidance allows.”

Sophie Mullins
Owner at Denude in Frome

Read the full GOV.UK retail guidance for working safely during coronavirus


Video: What will clothes shopping look like post-lockdown?

by BBC News

In this BBC News video, BBC business correspondent Szu Ping Chan visits a shop in London to see how things have changed.


From 12 April, hospitality venues will be able to serve food and drinks outside – which must be done via table service. There will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew. Social contact rules apply (ie rule of six)

From 17 May, rules will be further relaxed with hospitality venues able to welcome customers indoors under social contact rules. From 21 June, the government hopes to be in a position to lift all social contact rules – this includes nightclubs being able to reopen. 

What is in the government guidance for hospitality?

  • Before you reopen, make sure you conduct thorough checks across your premises to see that everything is still in order. This includes:
    • Site checks
    • Equipment checks
    • Ingredient and product checks 
  • Measures for social distancing staff and customers need to be in place.
  • Implement a new cleaning schedule to disinfect and sanitise regularly and effectively. 

Read the government guidance on reopening and adapting your food business. 

What are the main considerations for hospitality?

  • Consider starting or extending your takeaway and delivery options. 
  • Innovate and take inspiration from others like Babur offering a Father’s Day Feast for delivery or the St Moritz Hotel in Cornwall who have launched the first socially distanced restaurant.
  • Make use of outdoor space to minimise time spent inside.
  • Limit the number of staff and customers on the premises at one time. 
  • Make layout adjustments to help with social distancing where possible.
  • Consider taking contactless payments only.
  • Test on a small scale before opening fully or multiple branches. 

“The purpose of hospitality is to bring people together around food, and right now we don’t think that is a safe thing to do. We are considering whether there is a different way we can provide more local access to food outside our Wybourn warehouse, but this will not include enjoying a sit down meal in our venues for the foreseeable future. We certainly have no plans to restart any of our events and catering until the virus is much more under control and we can guarantee that we can give people a valuable and safe social food experience.”

Rene Meijer
CEO of The Food Works, Sheffield

Read the full GOV.UK hospitality guidance for working safely during coronavirus

Modern restaurant

Tourism and leisure

From Monday 12 April, some businesses in the tourism and leisure industry will be able to reopen. These include zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas as well as self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households. From 17 May, the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs, will be able to open under social contact rules. 

What is in the government guidance for tourism and leisure?

  • Start to prepare for a provisional return to trading.
  • Put in place measures for social distancing at 1-metre at all times unless it’s absolutely necessary
  • Put a new cleaning schedule in place to disinfect and sanitise regularly and effectively.
  • Accommodation can currently be provided for permanent residents, those isolating, critical workers, elite athletes and trainers, funeral attendees and the homeless.
  • Travel abroad will depend on the Foreign Office ban on all international travel being lifted and countries accepting tourists with no quarantine being imposed on arrival. 

Read the information and guidance related to culture, tourism, leisure and sport.

Coronavirus updates from Airbnb.

What are the main considerations for tourism and leisure?

  • The staycation is making a return. 
  • Start small. EasyJet is restarting a small number of flights where the demand is high enough across the UK and continental Europe. 
  • The government is looking at reintroducing travel corridors to enable overseas travel to low-risk countries. 
  • The only thing that is certain is that things will keep changing. 

“We now have just over 5% bedroom occupancy booked for the month of June. Whilst it’s no comparison to last year’s 72% it’s 500% better than April and a big improvement on May too. 

“Be grateful for the upside, don’t dwell on what’s missing and work really hard and smart to improve on the %. My team is always on the lookout for opportunities and I can’t wait to bring them back in July to restart and grow again.”

Andrew Hollett,
General Manager at Kettering Park Hotel and Spa

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Oxford Street

Tradespeople and construction

As most of the rest of the country went into lockdown in March, there was even more uncertainty around the trades and construction industry who definitely couldn’t work from home.

What is in the government guidance for trades?

  • Consider the risk of working in other people’s homes and only do it if the work is necessary. Follow social distancing and hygiene measures.
  • Consider who is needed on-site and let staff work from home where possible. Only have the minimum number of people on site necessary and to operate safely. 
  • Check in on the wellbeing of people who are working from home and help them stay connected.
  • Provide equipment for people to work from home safely and effectively.

What are the main considerations for trades?

  • Work out how many people can be on a site and what safety measures need to be put in place in order to ensure the one-metre social distancing guidelines are met.
  • Have measures for staff to safely travel to and from sites and give staggered start times.
  • Provide additional PPE and hygiene supplies for staff.
  • Have strict face covering and hand-washing or sanitising rules. Provide outdoor sinks where possible. 
  • Increase the frequency for the cleaning of public areas.
  • Have clear guidelines for site visitors (with no non-essential visitors).
  • Clearly communicate all plans in daily staff briefings and check in with staff on an individual basis to offer support.

“We are working with our clients and our health and safety consultants to create guides and risk assessments for returning to work. These include all checks that we need to make and how we can work safely with social distancing in place at all times.”

David Barnes 
Managing Director at Red & Blue Mechanical Engineers

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