You may have been visiting your local Marks and Spencer a lot during lockdown. Like all supermarkets, its near-600 food halls have remained open so that shoppers can pick up essential supplies like milk, bread and toilet paper.
If you had been after a multipack of socks or a pair of children’s shoes though, you’d have been out of luck, as all other departments have been closed to the public since lockdown began on 23rd March. Shopping online has proven to be a workable solution, but returns are a faff that many of us simply don’t have the time or inclination to deal with.
So news that non-essential shops can reopen from 15th June will come as welcome relief to many, and M&S is among the stores readying for that date. But a post-lockdown shopping trip will be markedly different from the experience we’ve come to know.
Luckily, the chain has an advantage in that it can apply learnings from its food halls to the rest of its operation. Even so, social distancing and other efforts to protect staff and customers from the risk of Covid-19 mean that strict limitations will be placed upon the way we browse, try on and pay for our goods.
Here, we take a look at how a post-lockdown M&S shopping trip will look:
Entering the store
A member of staff will be on-hand to oversee the flow of customers in and out of the store in order to maintain social distancing - if the shop is too busy, you may have to queue.
Hand sanitiser dispensers will be installed at each entrance for customers to use on arrival.
Only metal shopping baskets will be available, so that they can be more easily cleaned on a regular basis. You’ll also see signage and floor markings reminding customers of correct social distancing measures, and to avoid busy areas or gathering in groups.
If you know exactly what you want to buy, you're encouraged to consider the chain’s click and collect service, which will help limit the amount of time spent in store.
Trying on clothes
Fitting rooms will remain closed for now, but M&S has extended its return policy to 90 days so that it is easier for customers to bring back an item that doesn’t fit.
Specialist services like suit fittings, bra fittings and children’s shoe fittings will also be unavailable, though M&S says that it has enhanced its bra fit tool online, and expert staff members can also be contacted online for advice via chat services.
Taking a coffee break
If you need to take a breather mid-trip, bear in mind that all M&S cafes will be closed, aside from a coffee-to-go service with contactless collection at a handful of stores.
All till points will be fitted with Perspex screens to protect staff and customers from any potential germ transmission.
Paying by card will be encouraged, as will contactless payments - all M&S clothing department tills have been set up to accept the new £45 limit.