News that the high street can reopen from December 3 has been welcomed by retail groups, yet fears remain at the long-term damage inflicted upon stores.
The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), of which the NAHS is part of, has expressed its delight that non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen in England from December 3.
Bira’s CEO, Andrew Goodacre, commented: “We are delighted that shops can re-open from December 3, and are also unaffected by the new tier system. We are receiving more notice than we thought as we actually expected confirmation on Thursday. Retailers will be ready, and we hope that the town centres and local authorities will also have prepared to accommodate shoppers.
“Many have been trying to do business online and via click and collect. December will be all about selling Christmas goods, and retailers will have to work hard and be creative to attract shoppers.”
However, he added there was a way to go for recovery.
“The second lockdown has had a terrible impact on independent retail – potentially more than the first one because it is such an important time on the retail calendar,” he commented.
“Research tells us that 20 per cent of indies did not reopen in the summer after the first lockdown so we will not see the full impact of this until January or February – but it could be the same again.”
And Goodacre called for further support to survive this challenging time, commenting: “Cash is running out and more grants will be needed in January. We need clarity on business rates and the decision to extend the rates holiday for non-essential businesses. We need funds and expertise to help indie retailers to continue their transition to a stronger digital footprint. We also need to realise that shopping is safe and no need to close shops even if there is a third lockdown.”
Concerns was also echoed by the Food and Drink Federation, with Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive, commenting: “The food and drink industry’s half a million employees will welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement on weekly testing. This is an important step to secure continuity of production in this essential industry during these tricky winter months. We still harbour deep concern at the potentially desperate future for hospitality. There is real danger that continued restrictions will result in two thirds of pubs, clubs and restaurants – customers to food manufacturers – closing before the vaccine arrives. We must see further financial support for this vital sector.”