Non-essential retailers are cautiously optimistic about a return to normality following the unveiling of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown plan. While the sector could reopen on 12 April, industry insiders say businesses need additional financial support to see them through the coming weeks.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, comments: “While we are encouraged by a plan for non-essential stores to reopen, the heavy impact of the pandemic means some may never be able to.
“The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over £22bn and counting. Every day that a shop remains closed increases the chances that it will never open again – costing jobs and damaging local communities.
“Non-essential shops are ready to reopen and have been investing hundreds of millions on making themselves Covid-secure. Government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so. Until it is permitted, retailers will need continued support from Government.”
The British Retail Consortium says it “welcomes the PM’s call ‘not to pull the rug out’ from under businesses. But urges the government to act on three vital issues: rents, rates and grants.
Dickinson says: “To avoid further job losses and permanent job closures, the Chancellor must announce a targeted business rates relief from April and extend the moratorium on debt enforcement, as well as removing state aid caps on Covid business grants. This would relieve struggling businesses of bills they cannot currently pay and allow them to trade their way to recovery.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Goodacre, CEO for the British Independent Retail Association (Bira), says he is disappointed that non-essential shops will miss the Easter period: “We therefore want the Chancellor to recognise this in the Budget next week and make clear statements about the support that will be available for the next 12 months,” he comments.
“Independent retailers are desperate to be open and serving their communities – they have always been safe and will continue to be so. In the meantime we have large general retailers and garden centres free to trade despite only selling a small amount of essential items with the prospect of being free form competition for the next seven weeks.”