// BRC open letter in The Times signed by 61 retail CEOs calls for guidance if second lockdown is extended
// M&S, Harvey Nichols, Oliver Bonas and The Body Shop among those warning shops “may never reopen” if second lockdown is extended
More than 60 retail chief executives have backed the BRC to warn the government of the long-lasting damage to England’s high streets if the second lockdown is extended.
In an open letter to The Times, sent from the BRC and signed by 61 retail bosses including Marks & Spencer’s Steve Rowe, Dixons Carphone’s Alex Baldock, River Island’s Will Kernan, JD Sports’ Peter Cowgill and Harvey Nichols’ Manju Malhotra, the retail body called for guidance on the upcoming peak trading season.
The open letter reads: “With less than two weeks to go until the Chancellor’s Spending Review it is vital that retailers get the clarity they need over the future. Christmas is fast-approaching and half of retail has been forced to shut – depriving these stores of around £2 billion per week in sales.
“November and December account for over a fifth of all retail sales and if all shops are not allowed to reopen by the start of December, many stores may never reopen putting hundreds of thousands of retail jobs at risk. A continued period of retail closure will see more shuttered high streets and many more job losses at the heart of the festive season.
“Government reports have noted that the closure of shops would have a minimal impact on the transmission of Covid. Retailers have invested hundreds of millions in making their stores Covid-secure, keeping both customers and staff safe.
“Yet retail stands on the brink and decisive government action is needed to save it. Retailers of all shapes and sizes must be allowed to reopen by the start of December. Without this, there will be little festive cheer left on our high streets.”
Speaking in light of the open letter, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the current closures was “compounding the challenges facing our high streets”.
“To avoid local communities being hit hard by large scale shop closures and job losses, the Chancellor must address three issues – rents, rates and reopening,” she said.
“Government should extend the rents moratorium, giving essential breathing space to allow negotiations between retailers and landlords to continue.
“They must ensure retailers do not face an £8 billion rates bill from 2021. And they must ensure shops can reopen from the start of December as the all-important Christmas shopping period gets into full swing.”