Tier 4 restrictions could trigger £2bn weekly sales decline

Further store closures could see the UK retail industry lose £2 billion per week for the third time this year.

As a result of new Tier 4 Coronavirus restrictions imposed on London and the south of England this Sunday, all non-essential retail stores are now shut.

Reports of a coronavirus strain that could be 70 per cent more transmissible in London have also pushed European countries to close their borders to the UK.

The closure of the French border has put further pressure on retail, as it has posed difficulties for UK capacity to import and export goods during the busy Christmas period.

“We recognise that the government has difficult decisions to make and the situation with the pandemic is very fast moving, but this is hugely regrettable news,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium (BRC). “Retailers have invested hundreds of millions of pounds making stores Covid-secure for customers and staff, and SAGE’s advice has said throughout that closing non-essential retail has a minimal impact on the spread of the virus.”

Dickinson said that the consequences of the decision would be severe.

“For businesses, the government’s stop-start approach is deeply unhelpful – this decision comes only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown and right in the middle of peak trading which so many are depending on to power their recovery,” she added. “Faced with this news – and the prospect of losing £2 billion per week in sales for the third time this year – many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk.”

Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the BRC, commented on the closure of the French border: “The closure of France to UK traffic, including accompanied freight poses difficulties for UK capacity to import and export key goods during the busy Christmas period.”

Goods can still enter from France, but according to Opie, very few haulage firms will be willing to send trucks and drivers across to the UK without a guarantee they can return to the EU in a timely manner.

“This is a key supply route for fresh produce at this time of year: the channel crossings see 10,000 trucks passing daily during peak periods such as in the run up to Christmas,” he added. “We urge the UK Government and the EU to find a pragmatic solution to this as soon as possible, to prevent disruption for consumers.

“Retailers have stocked up on goods ahead of Christmas which should prevent immediate problems. However, any prolonged closure of the French border would be a problem as the UK enters the final weeks before the transition ends on 31st December.”

The new Tier 4 regulations will be reviewed again on 30 December.

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