Next reveals social distancing plans for shops – and larger branches will reopen first

NEXT has revealed social distancing plans for shops when they reopen after the coronavirus lockdown.

The retailer also said it'll open the doors to its largest branches first.

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Next closed all its shops on March 23 due to coronavirus – a few days before the government ordered all non-essentials stores to close.

On March 26, it joined retailers such as River Island and TK Maxx to also shut online operations after criticism from staff who felt unsafe at work.

It then reopened its website for online orders on April 14, after it had implemented a string of new safety measures.

In a trading statement today, Next said planned measures for when shops reopen include screening of tills, distance marking walkways, sanitisation stations as well as exit and entry management systems.


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It said it'll prioritise opening out-of-town outlets initially, where it is easier to operate in a "socially distanced world".

This is because they tend to have large car parks and outside space, making it easier to manage customers waiting to get into stores.

Larger stores also tend to be open for longer, meaning less people are in the shop at any one time.

Plus, they also have larger and more senior management teams, making it easier to supervise social distancing, it added.

Next said the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on sales had been "faster and steeper" than it had expected.

The chain reported a 41 per cent plunge in full-price sales over its first quarter to April 25, with high street sales down 52 per cent and online sales off 32 per cent.

It said it now believes full-year sales could fall by as much as 40 per cent.

Next doesn't believe there will be a sudden rush of shoppers hitting stores, warning that it will "take some time for customers to return to their normal shopping habits".

When Next reopened its website a couple of weeks ago, it quickly reached maximum capacity and stopped taking new orders.

It began by selling only childrenswear and home items, but now has 70 per cent of its range on offer online.

We've explained when the Next website opens for orders each day.

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