// Retailers warn many will have to file for administration if government does not intervene further
// Job losses will have a “devastating impact” on high streets
The UK’s biggest retailers have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak warning that “many viable companies” will file for administration and job losses will have a “devastating impact” if the government does not support the struggling sector.
The retailers’ survival need to be decided in “weeks rather than years”, retailers and landlords warned the government, as they pleaded for support with rent payments.
“We have come together, as voices of both commercial tenants and landlords, to propose that the government introduces a scheme of rental support for the space that has in effect been furloughed, just as staff have been,” the BRC and the British Property Federation wrote in the letter.
The firms said the majority of businesses are witnessing a decline in turnover of up to 100 per cent, after the government ordered all non-essential stores to be closed during the pandemic.
Retailers believe a three month moratorium against eviction for non-payment of rents proposed by the government was not enough to help them survive.
“With little or no turnover from trading, ongoing payment of property costs will imminently become impossible,” the letter read.
Meanwhile, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia has already called in restructuring experts or begun talks with their landlords about renegotiating leases in a shift that could leave hundreds of shops empty across the UK.
Others have been forced into administration, including Debenhams, Laura Ashley, Oasis and Warehouse, and BrightHouse.
Further collapses will have a serious impact on landlords, including UK pension funds, listed companies and private investors.
Retailers want the government to support a “furloughed space grant scheme” where the state would cover the fixed costs of businesses that have experienced dramatic falls in turnover.
The government has already stepped in to help businesses with a series of measures including loans, grants, business rates holidays and a furloughing scheme.
However, retailers said they were unable to take advantage of business interruption loans because lenders are reluctant to lend to shops.
“Even full use of these loans will only support their businesses for a matter of weeks or months,” the letter said.
Oasis and Warehouse became the latest retailer to file for administration as it announced immediate job cuts of 202 on Wednesday, while a further 1800 remain at risk.
Laura Ashley was the first high street casualty as a result of the pandemic, while department store chain Debenhams filed for administration earlier this month for a second time in a year.
The pandemic has continued to have an impact on the sector, as the latest BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor found on Monday that retail footfall in the UK experienced its sharpest ever decline.
Overall footfall dived by 44.7 per cent in March due to the government-mandated lockdown.
It also revealed that UK footfall declined by 17.7 per cent in the three weeks before the lockdown was enforced on March 23.
In the two weeks after lockdown was announced, footfall sank by an average of 83.2 per cent after non-essential shops closed and people were told to stay at home.
High streets saw footfall decline 41.8 per cent in March compared with the previous year, as increased use of convenience stores provided a rare positive.
Shopping centres were harder hit by the lockdown, reporting a 43.6 per cent dive in footfall for the month.
Meanwhile, retail parks saw footfall decrease by 23.5 per cent in March.