The move will “allow high streets up and down the country to spring back to life”, Sharma said, in the latest step to “carefully restarting our economy”.
Earlier this month, car showrooms and outdoor markets were allowed to reopen – other retailers will now be able to follow suit, provided they comply with government safety guidelines and carry out a risk assessment.
“In the new normal, we have all got used to shopping with social distancing. Now is the right time to apply these principles more widely, to more shops, as we continue our cautious reopening of the economy,” Sharma said.
Many stores have begun to announce reopening dates. Debenhams plan to open 50 English stores on 15th June, with Next set to reopen 25, beginning with its larger stores that can practice social distancing more easily. John Lewis is also planning a phased reopening of its department stores, starting with its Poole and Kingston outlets on 15th June. A further 11 will follow on the 18th. M&S, which kept most of its food halls open throughout the lockdown, has announced that it will reopen the majority of its clothing stores and all of its English outlet stores from 15th June, with cafes and fitting rooms remaining closed.
Experts at data firm Springboard expect a surge of shoppers when stores reopen, while the BBC predicts huge discounts, with retailers desperate to shift stock.