More than 60 of the UK’s top retail CEOs have signed a letter to The Times, expressing their opinion that non-essential retail must be allowed to reopen from 3 December.
If non-essential retail is not able to reopen at the start of next month, the signatories believe that “many stores may never reopen” due to the financial impact of England’s second lockdown.
The full letter reads: “Sir, 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.”
Signatories include Andrew Hinds, director of F Hinds, as well as bosses from the likes of Burger King, Dixons Carphone Group, River Island and Gap.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) published the letter and noted that a SAGE report last month revealed that retail has little impact on the spread of COVID-19.
The BRC also noted that total retail footfall dropped by around 75% in the first few days of the November lockdown.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, commented: “The closure of thousands of retailers is compounding the challenges facing our high streets.
“‘Non-essential’ stores are estimated to be losing £2 billion per week during lockdown – yet rents continue to mount, and the business rates cliff edge is looming.
“All the while, government reports show the impact of closures on [COVID-19] transmission is low.
“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.
“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 £8bn 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.”