The famously temperamental British weather played a cruel joke on Monday as some businesses in the UK were greeted with snow on the first day of opening their doors after months of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.

The government roadmap now allows trading for non-essential retail, personal care settings such as hairdressers and nail salons, gyms and swimming pools as well as pubs, cafes and restaurants for outdoor service.

READ: UK High Court speeds up case to reopen indoor hospitality before mid-May

Libraries, zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and self-contained holiday accommodation are also permitted to resume operations.

Business optimism has hit a record high, according to a survey on 100 UK-based chief financial officers conducted by Deloitte, thanks to pent-up consumer demand pushing up profits.

As expected, Primark owner AB Foods (LON:ABF) saw queues outside many of its sites despite the inclement temperatures, just like it happened after the last two lockdowns.

The fast-fashion retailer does not have an e-commerce platform so customers have to wait for shops to reopen, often because they are faithful to the brand, don’t know how to use online platforms or cannot afford to buy elsewhere.

JD Sports Fashion PLC’s (LON:JD.) store in London’s Oxford Street was also taken by the storm, the Evening Standard reported, with people queuing outside shops as early as 5.30am.

Pubs with beer gardens and 24-hour licences reopened at midnight across the country, with many more expected for later in the day.

However, a Coventry pub is under investigation after over 100 people lined up before the opening, which the City Council said may have breached social distancing rules.

Last week, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said pub operators have invested over £285mln to prepare for this week.

Around 40% of pubs, 15,000 in England, are expected to reopen from Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation to “behave responsibly” and observe safety measures to avoid further spread of COVID-19.

Retailers hold their breath

“The presence of snow in parts of the country was a nasty surprise as retailers and leisure operators opened their doors for the first time in months. They will be hoping the white stuff doesn’t settle and that sunshine quickly brightens the public’s mood,” commented Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

“Reports on social media would suggest that hairdressers and barbers needn’t worry as demand is sky-high. A lot of pubs have also seen strong bookings, which means all eyes are on the retail sector to see if people are happy to get back in the shops or whether they’ve become addicted to the online channel.”

“While it is possible that we’ll see plenty of people venturing into the shops today, particularly as it provides an excuse to finally get out of the house, retailers need strong footfall to be sustained for more than just a few days otherwise they face more difficult times ahead. It seems inevitable that we haven’t seen the last of the retail sector casualties.”

In fact, retail stocks were under pressure on Monday morning, with AB Foods and Next plc (LON:NXT) down 3% to 2,416p and 8,084p respectively, Games Workshop Group (LON:GAW) shedding 2% to 10,230p and JD Sports dipping 1% to 906.6p.

–Adds zoo tweet, Coventry pub update–

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