Small firms introduce "house rules" after Freedom Day

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Date: 20 July 2021

Many small businesses are continuing to ask customers to wear masks, use sanitiser and respect social distancing even after COVID restrictions have been lifted.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged consumers to respect the "house rules" which many firms are planning to implement for their premises now that national restrictions have been lifted. While measures such as the wearing of face masks or table-only service are no longer legally required, the FSB says that many consumer-facing businesses intend to use their judgement over whether to continue with these precautions.

Following discussions with the government, the FSB says it has received assurances that small businesses can continue to insist on these types of interventions.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: "No two businesses are the same, so it's crucial that small firms have the liberty to install the rules that work for them, including where masks are concerned. We're urging shoppers, diners and revellers to respect the unique house rules of every business when they're out and about from Monday.

"It's vital that small firms feel supported - by government at every level and by the police - when taking steps to keep their customers and staff safe … We hope that consumers will understand and respect this as they get behind supporting small firms which are working hard to get back up and running, so that they can remain at the heart of community life, character, jobs and prosperity long into the future."

Research suggests that many people will continue to wear masks anyway. A survey by ParcelHero, for example, has found that 68% of consumers oppose plans to end distancing measures and mask wearing in stores. And an Ipsos MORI poll for The Economist shows that seven in ten Brits (70%) want face masks to remain compulsory in shops and on public transport for one month after 19 July, while 64% would like such restrictions to remain in place until coronavirus is under control worldwide.

Meanwhile, new statistics show that high street footfall has already started to decline as cases of COVID-19 have been rising, with retail analysts Springboard reporting that shopper numbers in June declined by 27% compared to the same period in 2019.

Another new survey suggests that consumer confidence is still very fragile. A poll of 2,000 Brits by NerdWallet has found that 74% say they lack confidence that the UK economy will fully recover from the damage caused by the pandemic and the same percentage are not "reasonably confident" that consumer spending will return to where it was in 2019.

However, the findings show that Brits are a little more optimistic about their own future spending, with 42% planning to increase their spending from current levels by the close of the year. A further 43% plan to continue spending at current levels.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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