Shops are open again, and as much as we might be dreading it, shopping needs to be done.
Though most of us are now well-versed in socially-distanced grocery shopping, the reopening of other retail stores makes it necessary to revisit government guidelines. What safety measures will be in place and what's worth knowing before you go?
Here is everything you need to know about shopping with the kids, from books and clothes to stationery and school uniforms.
What Has Reopened?
As of Monday 15 June, an array of different retail outlets have been allowed to resume business. These include:
- Clothes shops
- Toy shops
- Book shops
- Department stores
- Electronic retailers
- Charity shops
- Indoor and outdoor markets
- Photography studios
- Auction houses
Bear in mind that, although these shops are allowed to reopen, it doesn't mean your local branch definitely will. Best to call or check online before you make the trip.
Preparing For Shopping With Kids In Tow
There's nothing worse than having to coax, cajole or reprimand your misbehaving child in public, especially in a shopping environment that's already tense. To avoid scenes, run through the guidelines with your kids before you leave.
- Remind your children of the importance of social distancing.
- Remind your children not to touch anything in shops.
- Thoroughly wash yours and your children's hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before leaving the house.
- Remember to pack hand sanitiser and face coverings if you're getting public transport, or want to be extra cautious. These will be mandatory for anyone 11 years or older, as of 24 July. It might also be a good idea to pack extra snacks for placating young kids. It's more important than ever right now that we complete our shopping quickly and safely.
- If your kids are acting up, consider rearranging your trip, if possible. There will undoubtedly be a fair bit of queuing involved (best avoided with a howling child).
What To Expect In Shops
- Many shops are operating at limited capacity. This often works on a one-in-one-out basis. Queuing will be mandatory outside popular retail stores.
- Hand sanitising stations will be located at shop entrances -- remember to use them.
- Shopping baskets will be sanitised between uses.
- Floor stickers will be in use at many shops to indicate one-way systems and encourage distancing.
- Expect to find perspex screens at most tills, installed to prevent the spreading of germs between employee and customer.
- Lots of clothes shops are choosing not to re-open changing rooms.
- Many retail stores are choosing to reopen with reduced shopping hours or specified time-windows for certain types of shopping. For example, a book shop may have certain hours allotted for browsing and others for collecting online orders. Remember to check online or by phone before visiting certain shops to avoid a wasted trip.
- You'll be asked to only touch items that you intend to purchase. This isn't always practicable -- for example, you may need to move clothes on a rail to see those behind; or you might need to read the blurb on the back of a book before deciding to purchase. In the latter case, the shop may ask you to place touched books onto a trolley, where they will be kept in a kind of bookish quarantine for a few days, before reshelving.
- Larger stores, such as department stores, may only be opening certain parts of the shop floor.
- Some shops will be cashless, so remember your contactless card.
- Since 1 April, the contactless payment limit has been £45 (rather than £30). If you are making a larger payment, consider setting up the digital wallet on your smartphone, if you've not already. With this feature, you can pay for any amount by simply holding your smartphone over the card reader, avoiding all physical contact.
What About Back-To-School Shopping?
If you're hoping to get a head start on shopping for back-to-school essentials, here are a few things you should know.
- Many school uniform shops are choosing to operate with an appointments-based system to prevent crowds. Time slots can usually be booked through their website.
- Although in-store appointments are available, most shops will not be permitting general browsing or clothes fittings. For this reason, it is a good idea to take your child's measurements with a tape measure before leaving the house to reduce the likelihood that you will have to return ill-fitting items. Measuring guides can be found on most uniform store websites. Consider making a list of the items you need with the appropriate sizes; this will allow a shop assistant to help you quickly and efficiently and prevent you from coming into unnecessary contact with stock or other customers.
- Shops selling children's shoes are also operating differently. Marks & Spencer has confirmed there will be no children's shoe fitting for the time being, whilst Clarks is using protective fitting screens and equipment, or else having their fitters advise customers on how to measure and fit themselves.
- When buying stationery, remember that many WHSmiths also house Post Offices and are therefore likely to have longer queues. It might be worth buying stationery from the supermarket in order to limit the number of shops you have to visit.
- If you are ordering shoes, uniform or stationery online, be aware many online orders are taking longer than usual to process due to reduced staffing and the upholding of safety measures.
Hopefully, these guidelines will help you and your family to complete your shopping quickly, efficiently and, of course, safely. If you live in London, why not look through our guide to the reopening of big toy stores, and local independent kids' shops you can support?
Originally from Manchester, Olivia has spent the last couple of years living between Toronto and Vancouver. She now works as a freelance writer in London and loves literature, travel and eating anything sweet. Her love of spending time with children began when she worked as an au pair in Paris.