THE announcement that non-essential businesses can reopen from June 15 is promising for businesses who have had to suffer almost three months without trade.

But the damage the pandemic has already had on the high street may be too much to revive.

Retailers were struggling before Covid-19 struck, with the potential death of the high street a key issue in central government and local council campaigns, after a wave of high-profile shop closures.

While grocery stores and cycle shops have experienced a roaring trade, it is the clothes stores, book shops and unique bric a brac antiques that may suffer from consumer habits reshaping to now favour online shopping.

The month of April recorded the worst retail sales on record as the public stayed at home and non-essential businesses were shut.

The collapse in activity threatened the survival of many high street stores, analysts said.

The volume of retail sales fell 18.1 per cent in April compared with March, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was by far the largest decrease since records began in 1996 and a significant difference to the 5.2 per cent fall in March.

“The effects of Covid-19 have contributed to a record monthly fall in retail sales of nearly a fifth,” said Jonathan Athow of the ONS.

He added: “Online shopping has again surged as people purchased goods from their homes amid lockdown."

Clothing sales were the hardest hit, falling by 50.2 per cent compared to March, a month which had itself seen drops of 34.9 per cent from February’s figures.

Sales from household goods stores fell 45.4 per cent, on the back of an 8.7 per cent drop from February to March.

Supermarkets also saw a fall of 2.8 per cent, having seen sales increase 10.4 per cent in March.

The results come after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned the UK is “likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen”.

Some cafes, restaurants and pubs throughout the district have continued trading during the lockdown with at-the-door takeaway and delivery services in place.

And from June 15, some non-essential stores, including clothes stores, are due to start reopening with strict social distancing rules.

This includes protective screens at checkouts, distancing markers on shop floors, sanitisation stations for customers as well as signage to offer clear guidance on how to shop safely.

Aldi stores across the country have introduced a new system to control the number of customers going in and out of stores.

In recent weeks, queues have been forming outside stores as new measures were introduced to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The retailer is now implementing an automatic traffic light system at entrances, which starts this week following a successful trial.

Seasalt, which recently opened a store in Hexham, said it would be asking customers to arrange an appointment system.

But, the Government was already facing an uphill battle to curb the number of high street closures pre-coronavirus and a return to normal trading will only require more funding.

With cafes, bars and other independent businesses struggling to survive, the currently shuttered stores may soon add to the growing list of empty units on high streets throughout Hexham, and the UK more widely.