RETAILERS are being encouraged to take action and start planning now for a safe re-opening after the prime minister outlined a roadmap towards easing lockdown restrictions.

Addressing the nation on Sunday evening, Boris Johnson set out a three-phase strategy for gradually lifting the current lockdown restrictions and kick-starting the economy.

Part of the ‘conditional’ plan was the possibility that some shops could reopen their doors as soon as June 1, in less than three weeks’ time.

And Andover Business Improvement District (BID) is urging retailers to put their best foot forward and begin planning for such an eventuality now.

Steve Godwin, BID Manager said: “As far as BID is concerned, the PM’s announcement is welcomed and although we know that life is likely to be very different, we are looking forward to seeing a phased return to business and to urge businesses to take action now if they haven’t already done so.

“There is some good advice available about how to do this safely and to maintain social distancing in premises so contact us if we can help in any way.”

Mr Godwin acknowledges the issues facing the high street but retains a degree of optimism ahead of the summer months.

He continued: “Although we know how difficult this is likely to be for many companies, hopefully the good weather during the summer is going to with us and that will help.

“People seem to want to be able to return to the high street and with many of our businesses being creative and entrepreneurial, I have no doubt that businesses will rise to this challenge and will be supported by the people of our town.

“We need to acknowledge however that everything is dependent on infection levels remaining low, so we do have to be careful.”

While retail businesses could open next month, those in the hospitality industry are facing a lengthier wait.

Mr Johnson’s plan notes that the ambition is to open “at least some” hospitality businesses in July, and Mr Godwin says this presents an opportunity for pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes to also begin planning for an eventual reopening.

More guidance for the hospitality sector will be available soon and BID has pledged that ‘communication is made’ with its members as soon as possible.