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Non-essential retail to get go-ahead to re-open on 2 December

Lauretta Roberts
22 November 2020

Non-essential retail will get the the go-ahead to re-open from 2 December, ministers decided at a meeting this afternoon, but a new stricter tiers of restrictions will be put in place which is likely to curb footfall.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the details of the re-opening of retail and other areas of the economy, such as gyms and hospitality (with a new 11pm curfew) but most areas of the country are expected to be placed under tougher restrictions post-lockdown that than they had experienced entering it.

It the highest tier 3 areas, limits on socialising were extremely strict (with households unable to mix in bars and restaurants), which had a huge knock-on effect on retail footfall. However there will be great relief among retailers that they can open stores ahead of Christmas.

The Prime Minister is expected to outline what the new tiers look like when he confirms the re-opening of stores, but which regions sit in which tier is not due to be confirmed until closer to 2 December.

In addition to re-opening of retail, the Cabinet Office released a statement confirming that England and the devolved nations had agreed upon a relaxing of the rules across the festive period to allow families to celebrate together.

Specific details are yet to be released but they have been described by Michael Gove's office as "careful and limited".

"Welcoming the good progress made by all administrations over the past few days to design a single set of arrangements that can apply across the UK, Ministers reiterated the importance of allowing families and friends to meet in a careful and limited way, while recognising that this will not be a normal festive period and the risks of transmission remain very real.

"As such, Ministers endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days, but also emphasised that the public will be advised to remain cautious, and that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact. In respect of Northern Ireland, Ministers also recognised that people will want to see family and friends across the island of Ireland, and this is the subject of discussions with the Irish Government," the statement said.

Non-essential stores across a large part of Scotland were placed under a two-week lockdown on 20 November while Northern Ireland is having a two-week lockdown from this Friday. Wales held a two-week lockdown at the end of October and has since re-opened its stores.

Speaking on Friday ahead of the news that stores would get the green light to open, British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson said that as well as opening stores, the Government needs to consider extending rent and rates relief beyond the end of December as business will find themselves unable to pay in January, having lost four weeks of crucial Christmas trade.

|With shops closed for November, many will struggle to pay rents from 1st January, when the moratorium ends, and it is essential that Government extends this to allow for successful negotiations between retailers and landlords. The Treasury must also address the incoming business rates burden to avoid burying retailers under an £8bn bill from 2021.

"However, the most important issue is to ensure all shops can reopen from the start of December as the all-important Christmas shopping period gets into full swing. Retailers have spent hundreds of millions on safety measures to protect colleagues and customers, and they stand prepared for reopening," Dickinson said.

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