Coronavirus: Guide to providing outdoor retail services

News article

Guidance for outdoor retailers to keep themselves and their workplaces safe for staff and customers

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed that outdoor retail is allowed to re-open from Monday 12 April 2021 for the following businesses:

  • car retailers
  • retailers of light motor vehicles, lorries or trailers
  • retailers of caravans or motorhomes
  • retailers of agricultural or other large machinery
  • garden centres and plant nurseries
  • car washes.

These outdoor retail businesses are requested to operate in a manner that contributes to the continuing public health requirements.

Carry out a risk assessment

Each business should have a risk assessment in place. A risk assessment allows you to understand how to work safely and keep your customers and staff safe during the continuing pandemic.

Find out how to complete a health and safety risk assessment and access a COVID-19 risk assessment template.

Health and safety law requires employers to protect their staff and members of the public. Workers should not be forced into an unsafe workplace, nor should the health and safety of workers, customers, or the general public be put at risk.

You should understand the requirements and your responsibilities to protect the safety and health of everyone in your workplace - see workplace safety guidelines and social distancing.

Maintain customer and visitor information

You must assist with ‘Track and Trace’ in the event of any COVID-19 incidence being related to your premises, customers or staff. You should:

  • At the time of attendance, obtain customer and visitor information that includes:
    • the name and telephone number of each visitor and attendee over the age of 16
    • the date of their visit or attendance 
    • the time of their arrival
  • Record that information in a filing system (which may be an electronic system) suitable for recording, storing and retrieving the information.
  • Retain that information for 21 days beginning with the date on which the visit or the attendance took place.
  • Destroy that information as soon as reasonably practicable after the expiry of that period.
  • Use the StopCOVID NI contact tracing app

When recording customer details, businesses should also follow specific guidance on data security for collecting customer and visitor details which the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has produced.

Follow social distancing and hygiene measures

Outdoors retailers are advised to follow steps to help protect the health and safety of staff and customers. These measures include:

  • Ensure social distancing guidelines are followed: A two-metre distance is recommended.
  • Encourage the use of face coverings: The use of face coverings outdoors to further reduce the risk of outdoor exposure and transmission is strongly encouraged. Read more on face coverings.
  • Follow the recommended hygiene practices: Good hand hygiene practices are important and should be followed. You should also frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.
  • Prevent crowding: Crowding must be avoided. Introduce queuing and people-flow management systems to minimise interactions between customers and staff - you should reduce pinch points and complete as many transactions outside stores as possible.

There are information posters that you can download and display with messages about social distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene.

Outdoor retailers are encouraged to ensure all business is conducted outdoors and customers are not, where possible, to enter showrooms or trading premises.

These measures are designed to enhance the protection and maximise the safety of customers and staff.

Further information

Trade bodies for the car and horticultural sectors provide advice and guidance on the safe operation protocols, see:

For additional guidance and practical steps on how local employers and employees can keep themselves and their workplaces safe, see:


First published: 9 April 2021