Mobile operators shut high street stores during coronavirus outbreak

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The UK’s four major mobile operators have all closed their retail stores and urged customers to contact their online services should they need support.

Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the public to stay at home other than to shop for “essentials” or for exercise “once a day”. Groups of more than two participants, other than those who live together or families, will be dispersed by the police and offenders fined.

What constitutes an “essential” retailer is ambiguous and although some sporting goods outlets seem to believe this includes them, operators have closed their outlets in order to protect staff and customers.

Store closures

“We have taken the decision to close our high street stores ... in order to protect our colleagues and customers,” said O2, which had outlined its closure plan before Johnson’s televised address and urged customers to use its online channels. “We will continue to monitor the situation in the UK before taking any decision to reopen our stores.”

“Our stores have played an important role in keeping customers connected during this difficult time, and we’d like to thank those colleagues for all their hard work in helping to keep our customers in touch with their friends and loved ones,” said EE, which added that all staff would remain on full pay.

“Following guidance from UK Government, we have taken the decision to close all of our retail stores,” added Three. “We thank our people for working over the last few weeks to support our customers in these difficult times.”

Vodafone told TechRadar Pro that its stores were also closed and the company was investigating ways to service customers that would usually visit its outlets.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.