Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): retail sector guidance

Guidance for the retail sector, including close contact services such as hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons, which covers procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.

Where we are now

Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis was published on 21 May 2020. It set out a phased approach to exiting from the lockdown announced by the First Minister on 23 March 2020.

Inevitably, opening parts of our economy and society has provided new opportunities for the virus to spread and the COVID-19: Scotland's Strategic Framework was published on 23 October 2020, setting out how we will work to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible and tackle the four harms we know the virus causes.

This framework sets out new approach to outbreak management based on five levels of protection consisting of four levels above the Route Map Phase 3 baseline (or 'Level 0') as set out below:

Level 0 (baseline) and Level 1

Within these levels, we would expect to see low incidence of the virus with isolated clusters, and low community transmission. Broadly, these levels are the closest we can get to normality, without a vaccine or effective treatment in place, before conditions will allow us to move to Phase 4 of the Route Map. They would be similar to the measures in place during the summer, once we reached Phase 3. The Baseline and Level 1 are designed to be sustainable for longer periods.

All retail businesses and close contact services including mobile services will be able to operate in these levels. 

Levels 2-3

Within Levels 2 and 3, we would expect to see increased incidence of the virus, with multiple clusters and increased community transmission. There would be a graduated series of protective measures to tackle the virus, focusing on key areas of risk – broadly, indoor settings where household mixing takes place with less, or less well-observed, physical distancing and mitigations. The measures would be intended to be in place for relatively short periods (2-4 weeks), and only for as long as required to get the virus down to a low, sustainable level.

Retail businesses will be able to operate in Levels 2 and 3, as will close contact services that are delivered from a salon, shop or other static site, such as a home treatment room.

Mobile hairdressing and barbering can also continue in Levels 2 and 3.

All other mobile close contact services will not be able to operate in Levels 2 or 3.

Level 4/Lockdown

Within this level we would expect to see very high or rapidly increasing incidence, and widespread community transmission which may pose a threat to the NHS to cope. It is likely that this level would see the introduction of measures close to a return to full lockdown. To judge whether and when restrictions can be changed we will consider a range of evidence on the progress of the pandemic in Scotland using the principles set out in the framework document.

The safety of people – customers, employees and business owners – is the number one priority and we are working with retailers to ensure that people can still shop safely. Guided by the need to ensure shopping is safe, we want people to use their local high streets, towns and city centres, to ensure that crowding is avoided, that good hygiene measures are in place and that physical distancing is maintained at all times.

Essential retail will be able to remain open in Level 4.

From 16 January 2021, click and collect services for all essential retailers and for those listed retailers permitted to provide a permitted collection service will continue to be available. Telephone and on-line orders for home delivery can continue for all retail businesses. You can find information on how click and collect services should operate, including a list of retailers that can provide a permitted collection service in the Click and Collect services section

All close contact services – static or mobile – will be closed. 

A full list of businesses that can remain open during Level 4 is in the Health Protection (Coronavirus)(Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Level) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, as amended by the The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 9) Regulations 2020and in The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 12) Regulations 2021.

Amendment 9, which took effect at 00.01 on 26 December 2020  removed (e) homeware, building supplies and hardware stores, and replaced with “building merchants and suppliers of products and tools used in building work and repairs”. Garden Centres and plant nurseries have also been removed from the list of essential retail. Additionally some retail services are now listed under businesses which are required to close, these are: tanning salons or premises self-tanning machines or a spray-tan booths, travel agencies, premises laid out as a showroom to demonstrate products for installation in residential property, such as kitchen, bathroom, furniture or glazing showrooms.

Amendment 12 set out changes to click and collect services and also removed outdoor car lots from the list of businesses permitted to open, adding a new provision which only permits outdoor motor vehicle lots to open for either the collection of a vehicle that has been purchased, or for delivery or collection of a vehicle for the purposes of a repair, MOT or service.

A list of retailers which can stay open in level 4 can also be found in the question and answer section below under sub heading ‘the shopping experience’.

There is also information available on how tourism and hospitality businesses, including bars, restaurants and cafes, will operate within the Strategic Framework.

Stay at home

Due to what we know about the higher transmissibility of the new variant, we moved into lockdown from midnight on 4 January 2021.

We have considered what additional measures we can advise to reduce the increased risk of transmission of the new strain of coronavirus and further reduce opportunities for infection. One of the key areas we can focus on is the workplace.

Working from home as a public health measure has been a crucial factor in mitigating the transmission of the virus in the general public and is an effort we must continue.

Our current position is that anyone who is able to work from home, must do so. It will only be a reasonable excuse to leave your home to go to work, if that work cannot be done from home. 

We now need every business to work with their workforce to look again at their operations, and to make sure that every single function that can be done by people working at home, is being done in that way.

Businesses should ensure that at least 2-metre physical distancing is applied to all parts of a workplace, including staff canteens, entrances and exits, break rooms, smoking areas, and similar settings (or at least 1-metre physical distancing where an exception to the 2-metre physical distancing applies such as in passenger transport and hospitality, subject to further mitigation measures being in place)

We have added additional advice which is specific to going to work from 4 January 2021, in particular for people at higher risk.

Last updated: 15 January 2021



First published: 9 Dec 2020 Last updated: 19 Jan 2021 -