Jul 19, 2021
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M&S warns of problems due to isolating store staff, LDO encourages mask wearing

Jul 19, 2021

As so-called Freedom Day arrives in England, and Covid restriction are eased in other UK nations, retailers are facing major problems in trying to get back to normal.


Retail giant M&S has joined a growing chorus from businesses saying that the current ultra-sensitivity of the NHS test-and-trace app means that too many people are being ‘pinged’ about contact with Covid cases and forced to self-isolate.

In fact, M&S said this has reached such a level that it may affect its ability to open some stores if too few staff are available.

That follows parts of the London tube network being closed on the week’s busiest shopping day, Saturday, due to not enough staff turning up for work as many were isolating at home.

The UK has also been hit by a lorry driver shortage due to Brexit and this is being exacerbated by what’s been dubbed a “pingdemic”.

Despite July 19 being Freedom Day, the self-isolation rules for double-jabbed workers won’t loosen until August 16.

An almost-scandal added to the frustration at the weekend when it emerged that the Prime Minister and Chancellor had said they didn’t have to self-isolate after being in contact with the Covid-positive Health Secretary due to taking part in a special daily testing trial. However, howls of outrage over the apparent attempt to evade the rules saw a rapid U-turn. 

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said “speed was of the essence” to tackle the self-isolation issue and M&S’s CEO Steve Rowe told the Sunday Times that three times as many staff are being pinged since Covid cases began doubling each week.

ASOS has also warned of issues due to staff shortages and consumer confidence seems to be falling.

The issue of mask wearing also continues to vex UK retailers with some saying that removing legal obligations to wear one in-store but asking retailers to “encourage” consumers to wear them puts extra pressure on business.

Many UK retailers say they expect their customers to wear masks and outlet mall operation London Designer Outlet said Monday that it’s “too soon” to abandon masks.

Sue Shepherd, Realm’s General Manager for LDO, said: “While many of our guests will have been looking forward to this day for well over a year, many will have concerns about what might come next. We will actively encourage our guests to wear face coverings when they go indoors. This is for their fellow guests’ comfort and our team’s safety, who will continue to wear face coverings and be here to help. Hand sanitiser will be available in stores and throughout the centre, while queuing lines and social distancing signage will be removed. As an open-air designer outlet centre, we believe this is a good balance so that our guests can enjoy their shopping and dining experience and keep everyone safe while they visit.”

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