The retail industry is facing a “nightmare before Christmas” following the government’s announcement of a second national lockdown, says the British Retail Consortium.
Boris Johnson announced that England would enter a four-week lockdown, starting on Thursday 5 November, to reduce the spread of coronavirus. This includes the closure of non-essential shops, including fashion boutiques and lifestyle stores. Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers, however, and for click-and-collect orders. The new measures were set out during a press conference at Downing Street lead by the Prime Minister on Saturday 31 October.
The British Retail Consortium’s chief executive Helen Dickinson says the decision to close non essential bricks-and-mortar stores will “deny customers access to many of their favourites shops and brands, cause untold damage to the high street in the run up to Christmas and cost countless jobs.” What’s more, she adds: “The second national lockdown will permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy – with only a minimal effect on the transmission of the virus.”
Recently released documents SAGE, the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies, revealed that the closure of non-essential stores has “very minimal impact on R values” and the transmission of Covid-19. “This is thanks to the hundreds of millions of pounds retailers have spent making their stores Covid-secure and safe for customers and colleagues,” says Dickinson.
According to the latest figures, the retail sector is worth £394 billion to the UK’s economy and employs 2.9 million people. Forecasts reveal that the impact of the last lockdown could see over 20,000 stores closing by the of the year – putting 235,704 jobs at risk.
“The announced closure will have a significant economic impact on the viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country,” says Dickinson. “The previous lockdown cost ‘non-essential’ shops £1.6 billion a week in lost sales; now that we are entering the all-important Christmas shopping period, these losses are certain to be much bigger.”
She adds: “We have no doubt that retailers will comply with the rules and play their part to ensure the British public can remain safe and have access to the goods they need. Nonetheless, government must also play its part, providing support to businesses that will be forced to close – otherwise the consequences for local retail will be dire.”