July 24, 2020

Face mask rules contradictory and could affect retail footfall, says law firm Royds Withy King

Shoppers now have to wear a face mask or covering in retail stores in England from today. Vicky Hernandez, Partner in our Real Estate team, comments:

"The new rules, which also apply in enclosed spaces including supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, transport hubs, banks and post offices, are undoubtedly a positive step in helping in the fight against coronavirus and boosting consumer confidence. Those who break the rules could face a fine of up to £100.

It’s still early days and therefore too soon to see how the public respond and how rigidly the law will be applied. Sainsbury’s and Costa Coffee have already said their staff will not challenge or enforce the wearing of masks for customers who enter their stories. Asda, meanwhile, has said enforcement is the “responsibility of the relevant authorities”.

While many of us feel the official messaging on this has been contradictory, there is also a real concern in the sector that masks could deter shoppers from spending their cash, particularly when it comes to non-essential goods. The worry is more and more of us will rely on online purchases, hitting the already beleaguered high street even harder.

The latest retail sales stats, just out from the ONS, say online sales continue to go from strength to strength. While the amount of goods sold last month increased by 13.9% from May, this reflects rises in food and online, yet clothing is still struggling.

Only time will tell whether shoppers who are venturing out will decide to cover up. Certainly, shoppers should at least feel reassured by face coverings becoming compulsory.

No doubt everyone who works in and around retail will be fervently hoping that any further impact on the sector will be minimal."

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1 Comment

  • Claire says:

    I don’t know anyone in my family who is now shopping instore for food or clothing. We have already agreed if the mask situation carries on we will do all Christmas shopping online. To spend a day at a shopping Mall wearing a mask is no longer a day out of fun and leisure as my daughter cannot wear one due to a skin condition that can affect her eyes. Fear of abuse by not wearing one means we will carry on this way until masks are dropped. We go to cafes, restaurants and days out where masks aren’t required and this is our new normal.