Retail activity resumes with doubts over rules as Phase Zero of lockdown easing begins
Six in ten small shops open with limitations, says business association
Some retail activity resumed on Monday morning as Phase Zero of lockdown easing came into force, including hairdressers, bookshops, cafés, restaurants, hardware shops, and physiotherapists.
It was a special day for many of them, with some shop owners reporting to the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that it was the longest gap in their firm's activity in the several decades it has been running.
The new regulations allow businesses of less than 400m2 to open by appointment only, and accepting only one customer per worker – yet, the details of under what conditions stores could open were only released on Sunday afternoon in Spain's official gazette (BOE), leading to criticism from the Catalan authorities and some shop owners.
The complexity of the new rules prompted some shopkeepers to have doubts, including some of the businesses opening, but especially among those choosing not to.
Besides, some heads of small stores complained about not having "specific protocols" for their sectors, such as hairdressers, and think it is a "lack of respect" that they have to "hurry" to open now.
Catalan News also witnessed some stores in Barcelona's city center opening but saying they have no system to book appointments, deciding to open with enhanced precautions and accepting only a reduced number of customers at the same time – this led to some queues outside certain cafés, hardware shops, and others.
Some firms believe that under the Phase Zero conditions it is not worth opening for the amount of business they will be able to get, while others are still planning how to comply with the new regulations, which include offering sanitizer gel to customers and disinfecting after each customer in some cases.
A number of small and medium stores are planning to open complying with all rules, but only in time for Phase 1, which will begin on May 11 at the earliest.
Therefore the country's small businesses are still very far from a return to normal – indeed, the PIMEC small and medium companies association said that some six out of ten such firms opened to the public on Monday.
In any case, many stores resumed their activity, hopeful to go back to normal soon, and therefore making the atmosphere in the streets that little bit livelier than last week.