// 1/5 of high street shops won’t reopen after the coronavirus lockdown, MPs warned
// 69% of non-food retailers have been “significantly” impacted by the pandemic
// Only 20% of Bira members have attempted to access govt’s business interruption loans because they “don’t see debt as the solution”
One-fifth of high street stores plan to stay closed permanently after the coronavirus lockdown unwinds, retail leaders have warned MPs.
British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) chief executive Andrew Goodacre told MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that it has been the “worst time ever for retail” since the pandemic gripped the UK into an economic crisis.
Goodacre said 20 per cent of retailers surveyed by Bira said they did not intend to reopen after lockdown restrictions are relaxed.
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“For those even saying they would look to reopen, there is a huge caveat about the level of trade on whether they would continue to reopen,” Goodacre told MPs.
“If the footfall is impacted and social distancing exists and they find it hard to meet needs of customers and workers, it would be more expensive to reopen than to stay closed.”
Non-essential retailers shut their doors on March 24 as part of the government-mandated lockdown, while food retailers have seen sales surge in recent weeks due to strong demand.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson told the committee that 69 per cent of non-food retailers have been “significantly” impacted by the virus.
“There is no way that anybody is expecting that demand will revert to what it was before – there will be a slow gearing back up,” she said.
“What implementing social distancing will mean is that normal capacity to serve customers will be restricted and, certainly from a public perspective, I have no doubt that people will be very cautious about how they shop, for safety reasons and because of pressure on money in their pockets.”
Dickinson urged on the UK Government to not “turn off the tap” of financial support for retailers, calling for tapered support as customer demand starts to recover.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a range of support measures for retailers and other businesses, including a one-year business rates holiday, the job retention scheme, VAT payment deferrals, and business interruption loans.
However, Goodacre said only 20 per cent of members have attempted to access the business interruption loans because they “don’t see debt as the solution”.
He added that just 20 per cent of these applications secured cash support.
with PA Wires