Social distancing

The government review is exploring whether to lift the ‘one metre plus’ rule which has been in place since last year in England

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson has called on the government to end social distancing measures after figures showed footfall was down by 40% since before the pandemic.

With the government currently conducting a review of measures which have been in place since the first lockdown, Dickinson said businesses were waiting “with bated breath” on its outcome.

“It [social distancing] does restrict capacity in stores and also is not great for the shopping experience that customers feel and see,” Dickinson told the Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

“Everybody is waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the review on social distancing. We all want those restrictions to end. Every retailer I speak to, whether it is operating their warehouse for online or operating their stores, would love that to be the case.”

The call comes as the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ figures show a three-month average decline of more than 60% compared to two years ago. Retail parks saw footfall decrease by 30.5% compared to 2019, Dickinson said. Larger stores had helped out-of-town sites fare slightly better, although the sector still showed a three-month average decline of 35.4%.

The government review is exploring whether existing rules could be relaxed in different settings including stores, and whether to lift the ‘one metre plus’ rule which has been in place in stores since last year in England, as well as other Covid-related safety measures.

Dickinson said it was also key that shoppers could be confident the measures would not return in future lockdowns.

“The most important things are that it’s a one-way street and we are not confusing us all by having to change the rules and then change them back again,” she said. “Consistency and clarity is almost as important.”