Greggs has become the latest high street retailer to put forward plans to reopen its stores despite the coronavirus lockdown.
Firms such as B&Q have reopened their doors to shoppers at a number of stores, and John Lewis has said it hopes to reopen all its shops next month.
The moves came as Boris Johnson urged the public to stay at home in order to avoid a second peak in infections, which could further weaken the economy.
Greggs said it planned to reopen a small number of stores for takeaway and delivery next week after shutting all its sites owing to the pandemic.
The boss of the bakery chain has told staff of plans to open 20 stores in the Newcastle area from 4 May as part of a “controlled trial”.
Roger Whiteside, the Greggs chief executive, said he hoped the trial would inform the business about what changes needed to be made to operate safely and meet physical distancing guidelines.
He said he believed the trial, which will involve a limited product range and shorter trading hours, would take at least two weeks, and that 700 stores, including 150 franchise shops, would open with new operational measures in place from 8 June.
“We expect it will only be possible to open this many shops if the government has taken a first step in relaxing the lockdown, which could be to open the schools,” Whiteside said. “This timing may change depending on future government announcements.”
The company predicted that sales in the stores would be “significantly lower than normal” while physical distancing measures were in place.
Whiteside said it intended to open all of its 2,050 stores by 1 July, when the government’s current furlough support package is due to end.
A Greggs spokeswoman said: “We want to play our part in getting the nation back up and running again, so we are planning to conduct a limited trial with volunteers to explore how we can reopen our shops with new measures in place that keep our colleagues and customers as safe as we can when we reopen at scale.”
Burger King, Pret a Manger and KFC have already reopened a small number of sites for takeaway and delivery.
It is understood that Leon is due to reopen six of its restaurants for delivery and click-and-collect orders, in addition to the 16 it has kept open to sell groceries.
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