July 25 – that's the date when wearing face masks becomes mandatory when visiting a shop in the U.K. Several other European countries have had this rule in place for some time, and it's hard not to wonder why it's taken Boris Johnson so long to enact this one.
If you don't wear one when shopping there will be a fine. But who's going to police this one, and who stands to benefit most from mask wearing? To the first point, it looks like it's the retailers who will be obliged to enforce this mandate and, given that they've already had to put up with quite a lot of abuse from Joe Public for trying to get shoppers to stay two meters apart (that's about 6-feet, 6-inches in your language), it looks like another cross to bear.
Then there's the question of who benefits, and on this matter there can only really be one answer: people working in the shops. If at any point in the last few months you've felt a little worried about shopping, in case you pick up coronavirus, imagine how it feels if you're in a store not just once in a while, but most of your waking hours.
Shop workers deserve the right to be protected every bit as much as those who wander in to buy a Hershey bar. If the cost to shop workers of somebody buying one of these sweet confections is that they are put at risk, surely they have the right to be afforded at least some kind of primary defense against what might happen.
To date, the retail focus has been on shoppers heading to malls and high streets, but attention should also be paid to those whose job it may be to staff these places day in and day out. Floor decals, protective screens at the checkouts and sanitation stations are all good and for most retailers they are now part of the in-store experience.
Getting shoppers to do the right thing must surely be part of this.
John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.