London Shops Reopening: The ‘New Normal’ Inside London Stores

June 15th 2020 is #ShopsReopening day and people have been flocking back to the shops, forming large queues eager to get back to some kind of ‘new normal’ (and bolster their summer wardrobes), but what can you expect when you step into London’s shops? 

Lead image: Selfridges ‘Thank You’ window displays have been created in tribute to key workers

Shopping online is all well and good (personally, I have been doing without abandon, justifying my mounting credit card bill as some sort of philanthropic endeavour), but it’s just not the same, is it?

It’s not the same for the shops either, who rely on us browsing and impulse buying to bolster sales. Plus, people need to get back to work, if we stand a chance of a) boosting the economy and b) getting back to any sort of ‘normal’.

But things are far from ‘normal’ – London’s stores and shopping centres are striving to make huge chances in line with government guidance on reopening safely. So let’s take a look at what some of London’s larger retailers are doing to help keep us COVID-secure…

John Lewis is taking a cautious approach to reopening, with the relaunch of John Lewis Kingston and Poole on 15 June kicking off a phased approach. Eleven other shops will begin to reopen on Thursday 18 June, but the Oxford Street store is not among those listed. The department store won’t be opening its fitting rooms, but it is piloting a virtual personal shopper in some branches in the coming weeks. We’re happy to report that the loos will be open and cleaned regularly! In store restaurants, however, remain closed.

One department store that is opening its changing rooms is Selfridges, which reopened in London, Birmingham and Manchester on 15 June. The toilets will be open, and street performers have been enlisted to entertain those queuing on opening day. Safety measures include a one-way system, a two-metre social distancing rule for staff and customers, complete with floor markings, perspex screens at tills, hand sanitiser and limits on the number of customers allowed into the store (one customer per 20 m sq of space.

The store’s restaurants and cafes will also be open for takeaway, including EL&N, Dolly’s Tonkotsu, Aubaine and Snowflake. The London Foodhall has even managed a new launch in Cojean, the Parisian eatery offering healthy food to go.

For those still not comfortable with venturing into the store, a range of virtual services will also be available, including virtual appointments with stylists and gifting experts. Plus, you can also shop by appointment, with bookable slots available outside of regular trading hours and fast-track entry to the store.

Fortnum’s, like Selfridges, kicked off a phased reopening in May, commencing a phased reopening from 21 May, so it’s had plenty of time to embed its new safety measures, which include one-way systems, socially distanced floor markers, hand sanitiser stations and staff in face masks and protective gloves.


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Sticking with London’s higher-end department stores, Harrods also reopened on 15 June. As well as flinging open the doors to its iconic Knightsbridge store, Harrods Outlet – the first of its kind – is also due to launch at Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush in July.

The pop-up outlet store, located in Debenhams’ old spot, will essentially be home to the Harrods sale, an edited collection of seasonal stock that went unsold during lockdown, and also offers wider isles to make it easier to keep two metres apart. The outlet also means that the Knightsbridge store has more space to focus on new and exclusive edits, with some selected seasonal reductions.

‘As well as flinging open the doors to its iconic Knightsbridge store, Harrods Outlet – the first of its kind – is also due to launch at Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush in July’

Social distancing measures at the Harrods Knightsbridge store include footfall monitoring technology to limit capacity, clear signage directing customers and employees safely around the store, specific doors designated for entering and exiting the building, an enhanced cleaning programme and hand sanitiser stations at entrance and exit points.

Speaking of Westfield London, the Shepherd’s Bush shopping centre COVID-secure measures include footfall monitoring technology and onsite security to ensure social distancing is practiced, one way entry and exit systems, cashless parking, an additional 300 cycle racks, hand sanitiser at every entrance, lift lobby and car park, and a ‘keep to the left’ system throughout the centre to reduce cross-path movements. The majority of food courts and restaurants remain closed, but the toilets are open, with managed entry to toilet blocks to help people stick to social distancing guidelines.

The same applies at Westfield Stratford City, which was recently visited by the Prime Minister to help entice us back into the shops:

One central London spot we’d be particularly keen to head back to on a sunny is Covent Garden. Given that the majority of it is outdoors, a visit to this iconic shopping spot – which marked its reopening by floating a 10-metre-wide helium-inflated rainbow balloon 100 feet in the air – the seems less risky than heading into a department store.

Reopening on 15 June, retailers including Chanel, Charlotte Tilbury, Dior and Tiffany & Co. are opening their doors for the first time since lockdown began. Following government guidelines on social distancing, new safety measures in place include marked queuing systems, social distancing signage, hand sanitiser stations across the estate, and a new one-way system for Covent Garden’s iconic Market Building.

A new public seating area has also been installed in Covent Garden’s Piazza for safer socially distanced seating ahead of alfresco restaurants opening in the coming weeks.

Some fashion and beauty stores are trialling new social-distanced customer services: British luxury leather accessories brand Mulberry is offering both one-on-one and virtual store appointments; Tiffany & Co. is offering a dedicated concierge service, one-to-one tailored appointments, accompanied browsing and virtual styling sessions; and Charlotte Tilbury is running a click/call-and-collect service and plans to host their infamous masterclasses over Zoom in the upcoming weeks.

Covent Garden reopens its shops with social distancing measures

Covent Garden marked its reopening on 15 June with a giant rainbow balloon as a symbol of hope. The market’s Insta-famous infinity chamber will also be turned into a rainbow for visitors to walk through

Further out of town, the Icon Outlet on Greenwich Peninsula reopens on 15 June as part of a gradual reopening approach for The O2. Spread out across two spacious levels, the outlet, which benefits from an outdoors-indoors feel and has plenty of ventilation, offers up to 70% off from fashion and lifestyle brands like Aspinal of London, adidas, Nike, Ted Baker and Levis. The site will also offer a limited number of take away food and drink options.

Enhanced coronavirus safety measures include social distancing, one-way systems, a ‘keep to the left’ system, new store layouts providing more room, hand sanitising stations, queue management at toilet facilities and thorough cleaning regimes. Plus, from early July, the Up at The O2 roofwalk will reopen with new measures in place.

Nearby in Canary Wharf, where no doubt office workers are starting to make their way back to the district’s iconic skyscrapers, the entire estate, including shopping malls, is adhering to new safety measures, from social distancing floor markings to manage queues at bus stops and the pier to social distancing signage on all external seating and heavy footfall routes separated into one-way flows.

Icon Outlet at The O2 reopens today with plenty of space for social distancing

The Icon Outlet at The O2 has plenty of space with its outdoors-indoors vibe

As for the shops, the malls have implemented one-way systems, hand sanitisers at all entrance points, increased cleaning of all touch points including escalator hand rails, door handles, lift push buttons and bathrooms (toilet attendants will help keep the loos safe).

For a list of shops that are open now, including COS, Dune, The Kooples, Pandora, Whistles and Zara, click here. For shops opening soon, click here. And for guidance on Canary Wharf’s restaurant openings, click here.

At Southside in Wandsworth, people are being encouraged to ‘keep two metres apart and keep smiling’, with individual businesses opening independently with new guidelines, social distancing, a one-way system, specific entry and exit doors, deep cleaning, hand sanitising stations and the promotion of apps as a safe and easy way to place an order. Customers are also encouraged not to idle in the shopping centre and to keep children close.

Over at Brent Cross, also reopening on 15 June, COVID-secure measures include a one-way system, social distancing signage, live monitoring of footfall, hand sanitiser stations and enhanced cleaning. Selected restaurant brands will continue to be available for takeaway and delivery and the car parks are open.