Retail faces lockdown 'nightmare before Christmas'

Retail industry associations have responded to this weekend’s announcement of a second Coronavirus lockdown by warning that it will cost jobs and possibly the future of some High Street names.

On Saturday, the prime minister Boris Johnson said that among other measures, non-essential shops across the UK will be required to close for four weeks from 5 November to help stop the spread of the virus.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “It will cause untold damage to the high street in the run up to Christmas, cost countless jobs, and permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy, with only a minimal effect on the transmission of the virus.”

She argued that a recent SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) paper reported that closing non-essential retail would have minimal impact on the transmission of COVID.

“The announced closure will have a significant economic impact on the viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country,” Dickinson continued, adding: “The previous lockdown cost non-essential shops £1.6 billion a week in lost sales; now that we are entering the all-important Christmas shopping period, these losses are certain to be much bigger.”

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said: “A circuit-breaker lockdown of non-essential travel and retail is a true nightmare before Christmas for West End retailers.”

The organisation of London’s West End retailers released its spending and footfall forecasts for the Christmas period, estimating that under the new restrictions, sales will rise by just £500 million across the district before Christmas.

Current trading rates are down by 64 per cent on last year, when during the same period retailers took in £2.5 billion of sales.

It added that only nine million visitors are expected to visit the district after lockdown lifts, compared to the usual 42 million that shop in the West End at Christmas.

Tyrrell added: “Retailers and the public need to be reassured that there is light at the end of the tunnel, as continued uncertainty and stop start measures are undermining confidence and worsening an already catastrophic situation.”

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