“The consequences of the latest restrictions will be severe for many businesses,” warns the British Retail Consortium

The British Retail Consortium has warned that the consequences of the latest national lockdown will be severe for many businesses. The association is calling for the government to extend the business rates relief from April to help those hardest hit.

Non-essential retailers in the UK have been forced to close their doors once again following the announcement of a third nationwide lockdown. People are being urged to stay at home and only leave their houses for essential purposes, such as exercise and shopping for food. The measures are now in place across England, Scotland and Wales while Northern Ireland, which is already in partial lockdown, is expected to announce more restrictions today.

Fashion and lifestyle retailers can continue operating a click-and-collect service for goods ordered online while they can also offer home deliveries. Thousands of non-essential shops were already closed after a large part of the country was put into Tier 4 restrictions before Christmas and the New Year. However, this new lockdown means fashion retailers in every part of the country can no longer trade in their physical stores.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, says that while it understands the need for government to act, the fallout will be dire for many businesses: “Retailers yet again face losing £2 billion per week in sales,” she says. “Already, 178,000 retail jobs have been lost in 2020, and with over 250,000 retail staff currently on furlough, that number could increase dramatically in the New Year.”

The BRC says that “retailers have been playing their part to make stores safe” and have “spent hundreds of millions of pounds on coronavirus safety measures, including implementing social distancing measures and increased cleaning procedures.”

Dickinson adds: “The government’s testing programme and a rapid roll-out of vaccines are the key to bringing an end to this cycle of lockdowns, and we have made clear to government that the retail industry is willing to make its resources available to support this effort. 

“Retailers want to trade their way to recovery but if they are forced to close then further financial support will be needed or many businesses will go bust and thousands of viable jobs will be lost. The biggest difference the government can make is to extend business rates relief from April for those hardest hit by repeated lockdowns.”

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