Over sixty leading retail CEOs wrote to The Times today to voice concerns about the impact of the forced closure of “non-essential” retailers during the current lockdown.

These closures come despite a recent Sage paper reporting that closing ‘non-essential’ retail would have minimal impact on the transmission of Covid.

The letter to The Times, signed by sixty-one retail CEOs:

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.

In the first few days of lockdown, data from BRC-ShopperTrak showed that Footfall plummeted 75%.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said:

“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 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.”

-ENDS-

Notes:

Footfall: From 5 – 8th November, footfall fell by 75% year on year, according to BRC-ShopperTrak.

Signatories: Alasdair Murdoch, Group CEO, Burger King UK; Alexander Baldock, Group Chief Executive, Dixons Carphone Group; Alia Hawa, Managing Director UK & Ireland, L’Occitane; Andrew Goodacre, Chief Executive, Bira; Andrew Hinds, Director, F Hinds; Andy Lightfoot, Chief Executive, Space NK; Brian Brick, Chief Executive, Moss Bros Group; Chris Holden, Chief Executive, Deichmann UK; Christos Angelides, Chief Executive, Reiss; Colin Temple, Managing Director, Schuh; Daniel Le Vesconte, GVP, Global Brands, EMEA, Abercrombie & Fitch Co.; Daniel Rubin, Chairman and CEO, The Dune Group; David Boynton, Chief Executive, The Body Shop; David Butler, Chief Executive, Crew Clothing; Debbie Edwards, Vice President and General Manager, Gap Europe; Dominic Jordan, Chief Executive, Hobbycraft; Doug Putman, Owner, hmv; Ed Duggan, Financial & Commercial Director, Fishpools; Gail Cohen, Director General, UK Gift Card & Voucher Association; Gavin Peck, Chief Executive, The Works; Gerry Murphy, Chairman, Burberry; Gill Smith, Managing Director, The Perfume Shop; Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium; Howard Saycell, Chief Executive, Retra; Jacqueline Gold CBE, Chief Executive, Ann Summers; Jerome Saint-Marc, Chief Executive, Wilko; Jonathan Miller, Chief Executive, McColl’s Retail Group; Julian Dunkerton, CEO and Founder, Superdry; Julie Abraham, Chief Executive, Richer Sounds; Justin Stead, Chief Executive, Radley+Co; Karen Forret, Managing Director, Wilkies Ltd; Leigh Chadwick, Founder Director, Seasalt Ltd; Manju Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Harvey Nichols; Mark Gifford, Chairman of Debenhams, Radley and NED at Ann Summers; Mark Jackson, Chief Executive, Bensons for Beds; Mark Neale, Chief Executive, Mountain Warehouse; Mark Warren, Country Director, Rigby & Peller; Mary Homer, Chief Executive, The White Company; Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association; Mike Logue, Chief Executive, Dreams; Mireille Baumgart, Chair, BoConcept / Concept Living; Monica Vinader, CEO, Monica Vinader Ltd; Nathan Smith, Chief Executive, Whittard of Chelsea; Nigel Oddy, Chief Executive, New Look; Oliver Tress, Founder and CEO, Oliver Bonas; Olly Raeburn, Chief Executive, Paperchase; Paul Moody, Executive Chairman, Card Factory; Peter Cowgill, Executive Chairman, JD Sports; Peter J Harrison, Chief Executive, Furniture Village Ltd; Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager and CSO, IKEA UK and Ireland; Phil Briggs, Managing Director, The Original Factory Shop; Rachel Osborne, Chief Executive, Ted Baker; Sanjay Vadera, Chief Executive, The Fragrance Shop; Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive, Next; Steve Johnson, Executive Chairman, Matalan; Steve Rowe, Chief Executive, Marks & Spencer; Sumeet Yadav, Chief Executive, Hamleys; Tim Stacey, Chief Executive, DFS Group; Tobin James, Managing Director, Tempur UK; Toby Anderson, Chief Executive, McKesson; Will Kernan, Chief Executive, River Island