After trailing its intentions in the weekend newspapers, the Government formally announced its ‘roadmap’ to ease the country out of lockdown yesterday.
The plan is based around four broad steps, which will begin on the 8th of March with the re-opening of schools and some loosening of rules around social contact. Further changes may come as early as 29th March, but the transition into each subsequent step will be subject to further criteria being met.
The earliest date we can expect to see non-essential retail open is 12th April, and whilst this will bring some hope to the high street, it is still seven weeks from the date of the announcement.
Responding to the PM’s route out plan, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“We welcome the additional clarity provided by the Prime Minister. While we are encouraged by a plan for non-essential stores to reopen, the heavy impact of the pandemic means some may never be able to. The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over £22bn and counting. Every day that a shop remains closed increases the chances that it will never open again – costing jobs and damaging local communities.”
“Non-essential shops are ready to reopen and have been investing hundreds of millions on making themselves Covid-secure. Government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so. Until it is permitted, retailers will need continued support from Government. We welcome the PM’s call ‘not to pull the rug out’ from under businesses. To this end, the Government must act on three vital issues – rents, rates and grants.
“To avoid further job losses and permanent job closures, the Chancellor must announce a targeted business rates relief from April and extend the moratorium on debt enforcement, as well as removing state aid caps on Covid business grants. This would relieve struggling businesses of bills they cannot currently pay and allow them to trade their way to recovery.”
This aligns with the calls the MIA has been making for certainty from the Government with regard to the extension of the Business Rates Relief scheme and the continuation of Furlough provision .