Masks to be compulsory in English stores from July 24
Shoppers will have to wear face coverings when visiting shops and supermarkets in England from Friday 24 July, PM Boris Johnson has announced.
In a U-turn on previous policy, face masks will be compulsory for all shoppers, however the rules won’t apply to store staff.
Those who fail to adhere to the new guidance will face a fine of up to £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days. Enforcement will be carried out by police rather than retail staff.
Face masks have been compulsory in Scotland since last week and around 120 countries, including Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece now require coverings to be worn in public places.
Some people are exempt from the new rules, such as children aged under 11, people with disabilities and those with breathing difficulties. Additionally, face coverings will not be required in places where it’s not practical, like pubs and restaurants.
The policy change comes a month after the World Health Organisation (WHO) evolved its advice regarding face masks, saying non-medical face coverings should be worn in public to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
Industry experts have warned that the new guidance could put further pressure on already embattled retailers. According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, non-food retail sales slumped by 15% during the four weeks between 31 May and 4 July and footfall is still “well below pre-coronavirus levels”.
“Shopping for non-essential items is already less appealing than pre-Covid due to the queuing involved, the inability to try items on and the risk of catching the virus. Many consumers will see the face mask requirement as another reason not to visit non-essential shops as it is a reminder that shopping trips are not what we are used to and are more hassle than before,” said Sofie Willmott, lead retail analyst at GlobalData.
The data and analytics company is predicting the new rules to further fuel the shift to e-commerce, with UK online spend set to rise 25.9% in 2020. By contrast, physical retail spend is expected to fall by 11.8% this year.
Willmott continued: “There will be some consumers who will feel more at ease shopping once all those around them are wearing a face mask, which may encourage some who were previously reluctant to go out to the shops. But ultimately, footfall recovery is going to be slow and is unlikely to return to the levels we saw pre-Covid until next year, if it even returns to this level at all. As retailers, such as John Lewis & Partners, Debenhams and Boots announce store closures, increasingly empty shopping locations will be less attractive and more consumers are likely to turn to online purchasing for convenience and choice.”
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