All non essential retailers will now have to close under England’s third national lockdown, which was announced by the Prime Minister last night.
All areas of England and Scotland, except for the Scottish islands, moved into full lockdown from midnight. People can only leave their homes for essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work – if they can’t work from home. Schools and colleges will close.
Wales has been under stay-at-home lockdown restrictions since 20th December and Northern Ireland commenced a six-week lockdown on 26th December, which saw all but essential shops forced to close.
In England, essential retail has been defined as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences.
However, it has been confirmed that non essential retail in England, including toy stores, can continue to operate click & collect “off-premises”, and may also offer delivery services. In Northern Ireland, click & collect services at independent retailers are currently not permitted. Glyn Roberts, chief executive of trade body Retail NI has called for the option to be restored: “The Executive needs to give these local independent retailers a lifeline by immediately permitting them to operate a click and collect service.”
In England, the government’s decision to let garden centres remain open while other retailers close has once again sparked disquiet, with many questioning the ‘essential’ status.
The latest restrictions have come as a blow to business owners worried their companies will not survive the latest lockdown, with real estate adviser Altus Group claiming that more than 550,000 business could close in England. The company said this included 401,690 non essential shops, 64,537 pubs or restaurants, 20,703 personal care facilities and 7,051 gyms or leisure centres.
British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall reacted to the news by saying: “Businesses will understand why the Prime Minister has felt compelled to act on the spiralling threat to public health, but the lockdowns announced in England and Scotland today are a body blow to our business communities, hard on the heels of lost trade during the festive season and uncertainty linked to the end of the Brexit transition period.”
The British Retail Consortium predicts that retailers will lose £2b a week in lost sales, and with more than 250,000 shop staff currently furloughed, called on the chancellor for more help to prevent closures and job losses.
This morning, the chancellor has announced that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will receive one-off grants, worth up to £9,000 each, as part of a £4b support package. A £594m discretionary fund has also been made available to support impacted businesses. Rishi Sunak said: “This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.”
The government will not review the latest measures in England until w/c 15th February, following a seven week period of lockdown, with any changes expected to come into effect from February 22nd at the earliest. Businesses must once again adapt and put measures in place to ensure their continued survival.
Adam Marshall of the BCC added: “Billions have already been spent helping good firms to survive this unprecedented crisis and to save jobs. These businesses must not be allowed to fail now, when the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long tunnel.”