Mar 23, 2020
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UK fashion stores must close as country starts lockdown, contactless payment limit increased

Mar 23, 2020

The UK started a lockdown on Monday evening as the government announced that people must now stay at home and gave only a few legitimate reasons for going out.

All dressed up and nowhere to go - UK fashion stores are now closed with the SS20 season a write-off - Photo: Sandra Halliday

They include shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine; one form of exercise a day, either alone or with members of the household; for any medical needs, to provide care or to help the vulnerable; and travelling to and from work, but only when necessary.

To help compliance with the new rules, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all non-essential stores must now close and he called out clothing shops in particular.

But that particular part of the announcement seemed to be behind the curve given that few UK fashion stores have remained open. Closures started late last week and gathered pace at the weekend with more shutting earlier on Monday.

Department stores, fashion chains and indies are now shut for the foreseeable future with hints that the policy could be reviewed in around three weeks’ time. However, there’s no guarantee that any review will change the situation unless the UK sees a significant levelling off of new coronavirus cases.

The measures are essentially designed to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed by serious cases and come as a direct response to a sunny weekend in which a sizeable minority of people ignored social distancing best-practice.

The order to close all fashion stores also came on the same day as GlobalData predicted an overall fashion sales drop of around 20% for this year and suggested that normal shopping patterns might not return until October, and only then if the virus peaks in April and starts to decline after that. It also called the SS20 season a "write-off".

Meanwhile, Barclaycard announced Monday that those stores remaining open — shops selling essentials such as food, medicines and fuel — will be able to take contactless payments up to a value of £45. This replaces the long-standing £30 limit. 

“Adjusting the contactless limit from £30 to £45 will allow more customers to make payments without touching card terminals or handling cash,” it said. 

And while the measure is a direct reaction to the coronavirus, there’s always a chance that the upper limit could remain once the crisis is over. Barclaycard didn’t say as much but did say that it “will be supporting the deployment of the higher contactless limit to other merchants in due course”.

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