Small firms hope face coverings announcement will bring confidence back to shoppers

Date published: 15 July 2020

A prominent Greater Manchester business leader has backed the Government's decision to make face masks compulsory for customers when they are in shops.

Responding to the announcement from the Government that face coverings are to be made mandatory in shops across England from July 24, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Greater Manchester Area Leader, Phil Thompson, said: “All small firms that are planning to or have already opened back up again have the health and safety of their employees as well as customers at the very forefront of their minds.

"A lot of businesses are already introducing screens, cleaning more regularly and engaging in a contact-free way where possible, and many are already making use of facemasks for staff.

“Facemasks and coverings can provide a certain level of protection to people you come into close contact with, which could help to stop the spread of the disease and to help get back to business as soon as possible.

"They will also hopefully give some sections of society the confidence they need to safely emerge from the stricter type of lockdown many have been observing.

"Businesses need consumers to start returning to their old habits, especially in our towns and cities where footfall remains stubbornly low.

"As mandatory face coverings are introduced, small firms know that they have a part to play in the nation’s recovery both physically and financially, and I’m sure this will welcomed by them.”

Mr Thompson added: “Of course, we know that facemasks cannot be worn by everyone, and wearing them can pose significant challenges for certain groups, such as those who are deaf and reliant on lip reading.

"We also must be careful that this does not become a trigger for abuse against shop owners and their employees, even though the majority of customers have so far proved accepting of social distancing measures.

"Understanding and empathy should be important watchwords for all if this does happen.

“But at a time when we want to encourage footfall to increase in our town centres and high streets, councils and government should help small firms either by delivering masks or by offering funding for the purchase of masks so that customers aren’t turned away.

“While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across the nation."

Meanwhile, there are no plans to make face coverings mandatory for office workers in England, Matt Hancock has said.

The health secretary told the BBC this morning that people working in offices will not need to cover up, despite a newspaper report suggesting they would have to.

"It is something we've looked at and rejected," he said, but added masks would be worn elsewhere by the public "for the foreseeable future".

Do you have a story for us? Want to tell us about something going on in and around Oldham? Let us know by emailing , calling our Oldham-based newsroom on 0161 633 2121 , tweeting us @oldhamchronicle or messaging us through our Facebook page. All contact will be treated in confidence.