So far, the only non-essential retail sectors that have been allowed to reopen in England have been garden centres and takeaways. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been even more cautious.
This, despite officials hinting that retail might open up much more broadly from June 1.
Peter Jackson, owner of Lancashire-based Peter Jackson the Jeweller, is frustrated by the lack of clear instructions, and fears it may be two more months before he is able to reopen.
The business’s four stores in Preston, Bury, Blackburn and Carlisle have all been closed since late March.
“The message is very mixed,” he told WatchPro yesterday. “Government is saying non essential retail may open from June 1, but we do not not know what that means. Will it be named sectors of the retail industry?” he asks.
Peter Jackson furloughed most staff, although the head office remained open with a skeleton team and the company also kept its ecommerce operation running.
Mr Jackson says he is immensely proud of the way his team has responded. Managers of individual stores set up WhatsApp groups to stay in contact with colleagues, and there have been regular updates from head office.
“It is crazy how we have all got used to this new normal in lock down. Two months’ ago, we thought there would be no way we could get through three weeks’ of this. But we did it. Then we did another three weeks, and another. We want to get back to work as early as possible, but if we do have to continue like this for another two months, we will find a way,” Mr Jackson says.
Mr Jackson is expecting a bounce when his stores re-open, but is also anticipating a long hard recession that will drive many retailers within and outside the watch and jewellery sector to the wall.
“We may see a short boom as people find they have more money because lock down has cut spending, particularly on luxuries like holidays. Customers might come out shopping to celebrate the end of lock down, and they may have had special occasions like engagements, anniversaries and birthdays while at home that they now want to mark with jewellery or watches,” he suggests.
When Peter Jackson stores reopen, there will be perspex screens separating customers from staff, with sterilised jewellery and watches passed through a small window. People serving the public will wear face visors, but Mr Jackson hopes they will not be forced to wear masks because he feels they are more of a barrier to the intimate service he wants to deliver.
Because Peter Jackson stores are relatively large, Mr Jackson thinks it will be reasonably easy to maintain distances of 2 metres between people.