In the last 24 hours, the Government has confirmed that retailers may continue to operate click-and-collect services as long as self-distancing guidelines could be followed, and customers did not have to enter stores to pick up their purchases.
Last month, when lockdown restrictions were imposed, the Prime Minister ordered all but essential shops, such as supermarkets, to close their doors to the public. The next review of the measures is due to take place on 7 May.
The clarification around click-and-collect services comes after Downing Street was asked during its daily briefing with reporters about some garden centres offering click-and-collect services despite not being classed as essential retailers.
A government spokesperson said: “Online retail may continue.
“Stores can operate click-and-collect services as long as orders are taken online, by telephone or via post, and customers remain outside of the store to collect their goods.
“In this situation, as generally, businesses must operate with strict adherence to the social-distancing guidelines.”
This step to allow more ‘non-essential retailers’ to trade comes after Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, veteran Conservative politician, last week called for garden centres to be one of the small number of shops to be permitted to reopen in a bid to test whether the current UK lockdown could be relaxed.
Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey, during an online broadcast last week from the Barn Theatre in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said: “I see no reason why we shouldn’t slowly open garden centres.”
In Scotland, garden centres have been urged to set-up home delivery services in order to help those stuck in their homes to remain active.
Rural affairs and natural environment minister Mairi Gougeon wrote to bosses urging them to consider a mail order service for selling plants and seeds.
While some garden centres are doing this, she said many others had shut up shop completely as a result of Covid-19.
Mairi Gougeon said: “As we enter the fourth week of lockdown, many families are turning to gardening – rightly – as a means of keeping active and close to home, encouraging healthy outdoor activity with children, and even as a way of helping to grow their own food.
“It is important for people’s mental health to have the ability to be out in their gardens and do work and support their local plant nurseries.”
The BTHA spoke to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this morning to clarify the situation.
In a statement published today, the BTHA said: ”All business can continue as long as they can operate social distancing measures, and where they cannot operate safe social distancing they should adopt measures to mitigate virus transfer (such as side-by-side working rather than face-to-face (see government advice on retail and manufacturing working).
“This includes keeping warehouses and deliveries operating and has continued to include click-and-collect for those that can safely do so. However, this advice is in conflict with the government list of only essential retailers remaining open.
“The advice from BEIS today was that retailers can continue or start to operate click-and-collect services but only if they are able to ensure safe social distancing measures for consumers. Therefore, consumers MUST remain outside the store and collect orders at the door with social distancing measures in place to collect outside.
“BEIS have indicated that retailers with their own parking area that can control collections would therefore be allowed to operate click-and-collect services as consumers can visit, park and collect at the door whilst observing the 2m rule.
“Shopping centres will not be permissible to reopen and stores on high streets should assess the situation as they may not be able to safely operate the social distancing rule and if they cause obstruction will fall foul of police measures that would not see toy collection as an essential retail operation.
“However, for retailers that can determine safe social distancing measures click-and-collect options are able to remain operational. The government is aware that there is conflict in some of the advice and is currently working to amend guidance to relaunch to retailers. In the meantime please see the current advice here.“
Members of the BTHA with enquiries can contact Natasha Crookes: email@example.com
Meanwhile, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has also confirmed that testing will be more widely rolled out to allow those who need to leave the house for work to be tested for coronavirus.