Retail experts hit back at chancellor’s £1bn financial support package

Chancellor Rishi Sunak in face mask
Rishi Sunak has pledged £1bn of additional support for businesses impacted by Omicron - but not retail.
// Rishi Sunak has pledged £1bn of additional support for businesses impacted by Omicron
// Experts point out that retail businesses have been left out of the support package

Retail experts have hit back at the chancellor as he pledges £1bn of financial support to help businesses impacted by the Omicron variant of Covid-19, pointing out that retail businesses have been left with no support at all.

Rishi Sunak spoke earlier today, revealing a package of financial measures to help the struggling hospitality and leisure sectors, with every business able to claim a one-off cash grant of £6,000.

The announcement came after the chancellor came under fire last week for failing to act swiftly to offer support to the businesses hit hardest by the current surge in Covid-19 numbers.

It also comes amid reports that further restrictions could be introduced in England over the festive period.

“Independent retail, and retail in general, will feel very disappointed with this announcement today by the chancellor,” said Bira’s ceo Andrew Goodacre. “Retail seems to be the forgotten part of the high street.”

“Shops do not have cancelled bookings to shout about, however they do have lower footfall, cancelled trips to the shops and therefore cancelled purchases at a critical time of year – just as much damage but just not as ‘visible’.

Read more: Omicron sees retail suffer on last weekend before Christmas

“The chancellor claims to respond proportionately but he has done nothing for independent retail,” Goodacre continued, pointing out that existing support was created to help businesses recover from previous damaging lockdowns, not deal with a brand new crisis.

“The high street is a mixture of interdependent businesses from hospitality, leisure and retail,” he added.

“If one of these fails, the high street is a worse place to be with other businesses suffering. It will cost the government a lot more to put right in the future compared to helping save livelihoods and jobs now.”

As ceo of New West End Company, which represents 600 retailers on Oxford Street, Jace Tyrrell was similarly disappointed with the announcement.

“With people increasingly staying home in the wake of rising cases, retail and leisure businesses are facing a bleak festive season,” he stated.

Footfall on one of London’s most popular shopping strips dipped by 17% last weekend, compared with pre-pandemic levels.

“Having made significant investments in their winter operations in the hope of a bumper Christmas to make up for the last 20 months, to see empty streets is a hammer blow.

“There is no relief for the retail industry, which has been equally hard hit by a lack of footfall. The Treasury must wake up to the fact that viable businesses will be forced to permanently close their doors unless more robust temporary measures are put in place to ease the financial pressure.”

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