// Tier 4 restrictions across London, the southeast and east England may cost retailers up to £4bn
// Retail chiefs called the new restrictions a “hammer blow” to stores
// Shops face the loss of more than £2bn a week in sales over the festive fortnight
The new Tier 4 restrictions across London, the southeast and east England may cost retailers £4 billion in lost trade, experts have warned.
Retail leaders have called the new lockdown a “hammer blow” to stores, which are now facing the loss of more than £2 billion a week in sales over the festive fortnight.
Boris Johnson’s announcement last night of the new Tier 4, which will see non-essential services shut, has tipped retailers into renewed crisis in the peak Christmas trading season.
Johnson yesterday reversed his decision to allow up to three families to meet for five days over Christmas — banning travel for anyone but key workers in London, the southeast and east as the areas were put into Tier 4.
Meanwhile, Wales announced it went back into a full lockdown.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research said that up to £7 billion of spending would be delayed or lost.
The BRC estimated that £2 billion a week of sales would be lost.
The rest of the country, which will be in tiers 1 to 3, have been told to “stay local” as bubbles over Christmas are discouraged.
Last month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the furlough scheme by a month until the end of April.
The new restrictions aim to discourage the mixing of households as a new, more transmissible strain of the virus has been discovered.
As well as non-essential retail, tier 4 will hit gyms, which will have to close. Travelling abroad unless for work has also been restricted.
“We know the government has got difficult decisions to make and the Covid situation is very fast-moving but this is hugely regrettable news,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“Retailers invested hundreds of millions making shops Covid-secure and Sage experts’ advice has been that closing non-essential retail has a minimal impact on the virus spread.
“The stop-start Government approach is deeply unhelpful for businesses and the consequences of this will be severe.
“The decision, only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown, is right in the middle of peak trading – which so many depend on to power a recovery.
“Faced with this – and the prospect of losing £2billion per week in sales for the third time this year – many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk.
“The government has to offer additional financial support to help these businesses get back on an even keel.
“An extension to business rates relief in 2021 is the best place to start.”
The New West End Company, representing traders in main London shopping streets, called the Government’s on-off approach “catastrophic for businesses”.
Chief executive Jace Tyrrell said: “The last-minute introduction to Tier 3 saw hospitality businesses throw money down the drain from unused stock and expenses in ensuring they are Covid-secure.
“This latest last-minute decision to close non-essential retailers with less than a day’s notice will see them fighting that same battle. We call on the government to provide vital financial support to compensate these viable businesses.
“And we urge it to introduce a more solid approach from the New Year to prevent businesses scrambling to meet restriction changes.”