11:33 h / 2021/02/23
Retail industry reacts to Boris Johnson’s announcement that non-essential retail reopening is expected to be allowed from April 12th.
Retailers have welcomed the long-awaited news, although many will be disappointed not to be able to open fully for the usually busy Easter period.
The government has announced a four-step plan to ease lockdown which could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21st June. Retail reopening is scheduled to take place in stage two. However, the plan requires four tests on vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants to be met at each stage. Boris Johnson told MPs the plan aimed to be “cautious but irreversible” and at every stage decisions would be led by “data not dates”.
Gary Grant, founder and executive chairman of The Entertainer, told Toy World he was happy with the news: “It’s two weeks later than our plan,” he said. “But two weeks earlier than we were starting to expect.”
The British Independent Retailers Association has expressed disappointment that its members won’t be able to re-open until April 12th. The industry body says that although it welcomes the additional clarity, the government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to re-open as soon as possible, when the data allows.
It warns that with every day a shop remains closed, the chances increase that it will never open again and has called on the government to offer continued support until that time. BIRA says retailers need clarity on business rates, which represent a huge fixed cost to them. Having been granted a year-long business rates holiday, they are now waiting to find out how long this support will be extended after the current exemption expires on March 31st. Indeed, all major business representatives have called for an extension of both business rates relief and the furlough scheme.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “While we are encouraged by a plan for non-essential stores to reopen, the heavy impact of the pandemic means some may never be able to. The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over £22bn and counting.”