Northern Ireland sees UK's first circuit-breaker lockdown, but stores stay open
The first so-called circuit-breaker lockdown has been imposed in the UK with Northern Ireland announcing a four-week lockdown from Friday. But it looks like retail will continue to operate with stores not being forced to close as they were in the lockdown earlier this year.
The question is whether this is just the first circuit-breaker of many. England this week imposed new rules across the country with three levels of restrictions ranging from the current low-level restrictions to a semi-lockdown in areas with high coronavirus infection rates.
But calls for circuit-breaker lockdowns of anything from two to four weeks are increasing and Northern Ireland's decision on Wednesday to go down this route could be a sign of things to come in the much larger English market. For now though, the UK government is resisting these calls.
And it looks increasingly unlikely that any of the circuit-breaker lockdowns that are imposed will be quite as extreme as the March-to-June situation was in Britain.
That's encouraging for physical retail stores that had been forced to shut their doors for at least three months earlier in the year.
However, at the same time, it's unclear how strong the consumer appetite for visiting physical shops will be in areas under some kind of lockdown restrictions and where infection rates have been increasing.
The lockdown in Northern Ireland restricts socialising between households, mandates that the hospitality sector has to close after 8 pm and instructs people to work from home where they can. All of this will dent consumer interest in buying clothing for work or socialising. However, gyms will be allowed to remain open for individual training so the activewear boom seen so far this year could continue.
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