Lockdown costs UK retailers £22bn in lost sales

Britain’s three national lockdowns have cost non-food stores, mainly non-essential retailers, an estimated £22 billion in lost sales, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The retail trade association said that 2020 was the worst year for retail sales growth on record, with in-store non-food declining by 24 per cent compared to the previous year.

Coronavirus restrictions also meant that overall footfall was down by 40 per cent last year.

Tighter restrictions enforced in the run-up to the traditionally busy Christmas period had a significant role in impeding non-essential retailers from generating turnover.
The BRC said that while retail represents over 5 per cent of the UK economy and contributes £100bn GVA, the pandemic has caused significant damage.

Anticipating the upcoming 2021 Budget, which is unveiled next month, the BRC said that “action on rates, rents and grants is crucial to the recovery of ‘non-essential’ retailers and the wider economy, preventing the further loss of thousands of jobs in communities across the country.”

It has called for an extension to business rates relief for the worst-affected companies, suggesting this will reduce the “unsustainable cost burden” on retailers.

The BRC also said that there should be an extension to the moratorium on debt enforcement, which would support thousands of retailers who face “accumulating rents even while their stores are unable to trade due to government restrictions.”

Finally, the organisation asked that the decision to apply EU state aid limits to lockdown grants be reversed, and that “all bureaucratic restrictions stopping businesses receiving these vital support funds” promised by the Chancellor be removed.

“After 2020 proved to be the worst year on record, it is essential that the Chancellor uses the spring Budget to support those businesses hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC. “Vital support in the form of an extension to the business rates relief and moratorium on debt enforcement, as well as removing state aid caps on Covid business grants, would relieve struggling businesses of bills they cannot currently pay and allow them to trade their way to recovery.

She added: “Tackling the challenge of rates, rents and grants should be the government’s immediate priority to ensuring the survival and revival of non-essential retailers and protecting the jobs of hundreds of thousands of retail workers across the country. The investment we provide to retailers now, will be repaid many times over through more jobs and greater tax revenues in the future."

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