PRIMARK stores across Scotland could open by "late June" as the retail giant steps up plans to exit lockdown.

Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) has said it is working to reopen all its 153 stores in England on June 15, after the Government gave non-essential retailers the go-ahead to welcome customers again.

It said that it expects to have reopened 281 of its stores by that date, having already reopened 112 of its sites across mainland Europe.

The retailer said it is awaiting further guidance regarding stores in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales but anticipates openings in “late June”.

When are shops likely to reopen? 

Scotland entered phase one of its lockdown exit strategy last week, paving the way for the reopening of garden centres and takeaway outlets. 

Non-essential shops like fashion retailers have been asked to remain closed at this time.

It will be phase two of lockdown before small retail units can begin to reopen, which is likely to be imposed on June 18 - assuming the Scottish Government is satisfied with the progress made under phase one.

Ayr Advertiser: Garden centres opened last week across Scotland Garden centres opened last week across Scotland

Previously closed small retail units can reopen with physical distancing. Outdoor markets with physical distancing, hygiene measures and controls on numbers.

Pubs and restaurants can open outdoor spaces with physical distancing and increased hygiene routines.

However, larger retailers are unlikely to get the go ahead until phase three, which won't be implemented until July 9 at the earliest. 

What has the company said? 

In a statement, ABF said: “As European governments have begun to ease restrictions on clothing retailing we have been able to reopen stores.

“Safety has been our highest priority in our detailed preparations to welcome our customers and employees back to stores. We are following government safety advice in all markets.

“Importantly, we will apply the valuable experience gained from more than 100 stores which are already open as we open the remainder of our estate, including stores across the UK.

“Social distancing protocols, hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high frequency touch points in the store are among the measures we are implementing.”

The retailer said trading has been “reassuring and encouraging” in its recently reopened stores, with queues outside most sites.

Nevertheless, it said cumulative like-for-like sales since reopening have been lower than the same period last year.

The firm added that “as long as social distancing is required, we expect it to restrict the capacity of our busiest stores from achieving their aggregate pre-Covid-19 sales”.

Meanwhile, ABF said operating profits in its grocery business will be ahead of forecasts after “stronger sales” of branded products, although profits in its sugar arm are predicted to slip.