Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): retail sector guidance

Guidance for the retail sector including procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.

Where we are now

The Scottish Government has initiated a broad collaborative process to develop sectoral guidance. Our aim to is to provide clarity and confidence to industry, employees and local communities, whilst also protecting public health and supporting the economic recovery. Aligned with that we are reviewing and enhancing testing and enforcement arrangements, and ensuring that the guidance is coherent and connected, recognising for example transport and other inter-dependencies. The Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis, was published on 21 May and sets out the phases by which we will aim to ease lockdown. They will be gradual and incremental and will be matched with careful monitoring of the virus.

We are working with the UK Government to align our approach and guidance, where possible, on the basis of scientific evidence on the levels of infection in Scotland. This guidance aims to assist employers, businesses and their workforce ensure a safe working environment  and readers will easily recognise consistent themes in this guidance with the UK Government’s  Working Safely During Coronavirus (COVID-19) publications.


Physical distancing duties are set out in Regulation 4(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures:

  • to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer),
  • to ensure that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance,
  • to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer).

For retail premises, enforcement of this legislation is undertaken by Environmental Health and Trading Standards local authority staff in agreement with Police Scotland.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities and it is important that as a business or an employer you continue to comply with your existing obligations, including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. It contains non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with these existing obligations. When considering how to apply this guidance, take into account agency workers, contractors, staff on zero hours contracts, as well as your employees. Decisions on the phasing of a sector wide return for retail will be made in line with the Route Map. 

Business support

There has been an unprecedented package of support announced from both the Scottish and UK Governments to support businesses which includes retailers. This support should help many employers preserve their business, maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis. Information on this support is available through We urge all businesses to make use of this. In the event of closures for retail premises all available support measures must be utilised to protect the jobs and incomes of retail workers. 

Physical distancing

This guidance should be read in conjunction with our  business and physical distancing guidance which still applies.

The Route Map states that in Phase 2 previously closed small retail units can open with physical distancing. 

The remainder of this sectoral guidance addresses key elements of  preparing for a managed restart, providing clarity and confidence to employees and local communities, while protecting public health and concurrently optimising economic recovery. 

Shopping centres and retail parks should adhere to this and take cognisance of legal duties set out in the Business and Physical Distancing Regulations. This guidance applies to shopping centres and retail parks and further industry guidance is available in the related information section.

Phasing clarifications

Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis has been updated on 18 June 2020 to permit retail units will be able to open from 29 June 2020. This is provided they have entrance / exit(s) for customers to use connecting them directly to outside space.  For non-essential retail, if the customer entrance / exit(s) connects to an indoor space, such as an indoor shopping mall they are asked not to re-open until Phase 3. This represents a change from the first iteration of the route map and previous guidance where a size threshold was proposed for Phase 2 was indicated. 

Betting shops can reopen with the above provisions in Phase 2 but are open for the purpose of placing bets only – with no chairs and no televisions showing live races, with the aim of avoiding clusters of people gathering to watch live sport. Gambling machines should also be switched off to avoid spread through surface transmission.

Last updated: 19 June 2020