Non-essential retailers ‘deeply disappointed’ by return to Level 5 Covid restrictions
Many of the largest retailers in the country have reported less than 1% of their total employees testing positive for Covid-19
20 October 2020 | 0
A nationwide return to Covid Level 5 restrictions, marks a serious blow to the many “non-essential” retailers that will have to close, Ibec group Retail Ireland has said.
Many of these businesses were relying on the run up to Christmas to make up for the significant losses incurred earlier in the year, and Retail Ireland has said there is very real concern that many vulnerable retail businesses will not survive Covid. The group called for a clear and comprehensive strategy for the unwinding of these restrictions.
“Many retailers are facing into a deeply uncertain Christmas trading period,” said Retail Ireland director Arnold Dillon. “Many thousands of businesses will have to close and tens of thousands of retail workers will be out of work.
“It is important that customers support affected businesses through online and click and collect services where possible,” Dillon added. “While important government supports are in place, those retailers without a developed online offering are particularly exposed.”
On a more positive note, the group welcomed the restoration of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, stating that it will provide important support to many and is very welcome.
“It is crucial that these measures work and we are in a place to reopen retail in advance of Christmas. We simply cannot contemplate serious rolling restrictions into the future,” Dillon added.
Retail Excellence response
Meanwhile, Retail Excellence, which represents over 2,000 retail businesses, also expressed its deep disappointment with the government’s decision to close all non-essential retail by moving the country to level 5.
“‘Non-essential’ retailers generate over 70% of annual turnover over this quarter and these further restrictions will inevitably push many more businesses into insolvency,” said Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence.
He went on to describe the move as “a baffling decision in so many ways,” considering the following points:
- Retailers have invested heavily in making premises safe this year and have been fully compliant with all government guidelines. Many of the largest retailers in the country have reported less than 1% of their total employees testing positive for Covid-19, suggesting the lack of transmission in the retail workplace.
- Despite far higher infection rates, retailers in Northern Ireland continue to trade relatively normally compared to their counterparts in the Republic.
- No other European country has locked down retail in the way this government has done with retailers in Ireland.
- We estimate over 60,000 retail employees will lose their jobs as a result of these new measures joining the 30,000 retail workers who have already been laid off this year.
- The anticipated six weeks closure, will create unprecedented pent up demand for the month of December, resulting in a frenzied shopping experience in the final weeks before Christmas.
- There will be a massive upsurge in online shopping this year and we know that 70% of this is spent with retailers based out of the country.
- Retail stores are fully stocked for the Christmas period and failure to move this stock will create cash flow issues and impact payment to suppliers and other creditors.
Retail Excellence is now calling on the government to provide a number of measures. These include setting out a ‘crystal’ clear roadmap to reopening, that ecommerce/online retailing is totally unrestricted, that the TWSS be reintroduced with immediate effect, and that further supports are made available to retailers to help with legacy debts such as rent payments.
‘Mass movement’ not expected to NI
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said he wanted “to convey that our thoughts are very much with [Retail Excellence’s] members as they face incredibly difficult times ahead”.
“Let’s be clear – the Executive should not be considering a similar shutdown for Northern Ireland,” he added.
“Such an action would result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in retail, the supply chain and on our high streets. Retail Excellence Ireland estimate this move will cost 60,000 jobs in ROI and the Executive needs to immediately rule out such a destructive move.”
Roberts said many of Retail NI’s high street members had already reported a significant loss of trade and footfall, since the closure of the hospitality sector on Friday.
“The Irish government has stated they are putting restrictions on the ability of citizens to travel beyond their counties and we fully expect that we will not see a mass movement of southern shoppers to Northern Ireland,” Roberts said.