BRC says consequences of latest lockdown will be “severe” for retailers

Empty Oxford Street 2020
Deserted Oxford Street: March 2020

Responding to the latest lockdown measures announced yesterday, 4 January 2021 – once again forcing the closure of all non-essential retail countrywide – the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned of “severe” consequences for many retail businesses.

Pushing the UK back in to a lockdown similar to March, 2020, which looks likely to last until at least the end of February, 2021, will no doubt see yet more retail casualties and job losses across the industry.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: “The consequences of these latest restrictions – with non-essential retail already closed for several weeks – will be severe for many businesses who yet again face losing £2bn per week in sales. 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.

“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.”

Dickinson was, however, sympathetic to the government’s cause given the dramatic rise in new coronavirus cases since Christmas, emphasising that the need to act was correct. She added: “The continued rise in Covid cases over the Christmas period is a significant cause for concern, and we understand the need for the government to act.

“Retailers have been playing their part to make stores safe, spending hundreds of millions of pounds on coronavirus safety measures, including implementing social distancing measures and increased cleaning procedures.

“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.”

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