'When will shopping centres reopen?' is just one of the questions we have regarding the continued lockdown.
During the UK lockdown (here are the new government guidelines for lockdown (opens in new tab)), we’ve seen many of our favourite leisure spots close their doors temporarily.
No longer can we enjoy a weekend (opens in new tab) trip to the cinema, or a leisurely Sunday at the pub.
It's also meant that all of our local shopping centres are closed, bar a select few essential shops - such as supermarkets and pharmacies - that may be contained within them.
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Now that it's been over eight weeks since the beginning of the lockdown, you may be wondering, when will shopping centres reopen?
Of course, many never completely closed down, and their full reopening relies on the stores within them and when they may reopen.
So when might things return to normal?
Are shopping centres open now?
During the lockdown, many shopping centres have continued operating on a partially closed basis.
For example, intu, who run multiple shopping centres across the UK, have kept a few stores open within their centres, such as essential food shops including Marks & Spencer, and pharmacies.
Bluewater in Essex have also kept a few essential stores open, including Holland & Barratt, and Boots in the centre has recently reopened.
However, some centres, such as Bicester Village, a designer outlet store, have remained completely closed since 23rd March.
Some have also recently reopened opticians for emergency appointments.
But it's not yet clear exactly when shopping centres will fully reopen.
When will shopping centres reopen?
In the government's recently released, 50-page document on the roadmap out of lockdown, they suggested that non-essential retail shops, such as clothing stores, beauty stores and department stores, may only reopen from 1st June at the earliest.
It's said that retail stores would reopen in phases, with the government stating that it will "issue further guidance shortly on the approach that will be taken to phasing, including which businesses will be covered in each phase and the timeframes involved."
However, this is dependent on the progress of the virus over the next few weeks.
If the 'R' rate - the rate of infection - remains below one, and cases and deaths continue to fall, it is likely that non-essential retail shops may be able to reopen in early June.
So, this would mean that shopping centres would largely reopen then, too.
What will it be like when shopping centres reopen?
This happening also largely depends on whether social distancing measures can be implimented in stores and shopping centres too.
If shops or centres are considered too small to allow for social distancing, it may be even longer before they reopen. Or, many shopping centres may reopen at reduced capacity (e.g shorter opening hours, and with less people allowed in), to allow for a more spaced out environment.
Westfield London have confirmed that they will be ready to reopen as soon as the government gives the green light, which they hope will be on 1st June, with certain measures in place.
Scott Parsons, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s Regional Managing Director, UK & Italy, said, “Managing the health and safety element of reopening Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City is our biggest priority right now and I can confidently say that our robust plans not only meet all requirements outlined in the government guidelines but go above and beyond."
Explaining how they will manage the process, he said, "The sheer scale of our centres puts us in a unique position where we can very safely manage the customer journey throughout the malls. As well as heightened hygiene measures across every touch point, we have technology to monitor footfall and flows and ensure social distancing is practiced, as well as the benefit of onsite security and guest services teams to carefully control the measures at all times."
Which shops are already open?
While shopping centres may not be quite open yet, many other shops have been allowed to reopen outside of them.
Many DIY stores, such as B&Q, have already reopened, as have garden centres (opens in new tab), with social distancing measures in place.
Some local takeaways have also reopened too.
Pharmacies, supermarkets and food shops never closed during the lockdown, while pets shops, laundrettes, garages and newsagents have also remained open the entire time.
So will we get a chance to shop in our favourite clothes shops soon? Only time will tell...
Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on womanandhome.com.
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