As Covid Restrictions Hit Retail Sector, It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas 2020

As Plan B restrictions and bad weather create havoc for the high street, retail and hospitality continue to suffer as fewer shoppers venture out to buy and celebrate.

Work from home measures brought in by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have further impacted high streets in a year in which retailers were hoping for a Christmas sales boost after earlier lack-lustre footfall figures and lockdowns.

Passenger numbers on the London Underground and at stations around the UK have dropped by approximately 20% in the traditional rush hour as some commuters adhered to government advice to work from home, reported The Guardian.

As part of the government’s Plan B guidance to curb the spread of Omicron in England, we must now also observe tightened rules on face-masks in stores and on public transport to deal with what is described as a “tidal wave” of the new variant.

Store shopping had been blighted in November with severe weather and the impact of Storm Arwen and high streets suffered a drop in footfall of 15.2 per cent. Black Friday didn’t work any magic either. BRC-Sensormatic IQ data reported that total UK footfall fell by 15.7% in November compared with the same month in 2019.

The latest high street footfall figures also revealed a drop in the number of visits to Central London down 3 per cent from the previous week, whilst regional cities saw a 1.6 per cent decline.

2021 has seen retail, hospitality and many service led businesses struggle with a perfect storm of challenges. The pandemic, supply chain issues and significantly rising costs are front of mind for both consumer and organisations with many customers have not switched back from a reliance of online shopping.

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One in three (34%) purchases are now being made online, compared to one in four (24%) in 2019. Low prices and delivery efficiency are having a profound impact on many people’s expectations of shopping – 45% are enticed by the offer of low prices from online retailers

In the last few critical days before the holidays, meals have been cancelled, bars struggling and stores have been ghosted. Seasonal shopping combined with social activities such as eating out and enjoying the theatre and cinemas …all this is feeling the impact.

Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge took to social media to highlight the pain for his businesses:

“Here we are…This is a the list of cancellations taken in one of our restaurants in the past six days…654 guests. I understand why. Public health is THE most important thing. But what will the government do to support the industry? Many places will crumble without help…”

The post was accompanied by a video showing sheet after sheet of A4 paper with restaurant bookings marked as cancelled.

Chef Raymond Blanc commented that it “is the very same in all our @BrasserieBlanc its a carnage. “

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story release was not immune from Covid’s impact, as the musical revival suffered a disappointing start at the box office despite critical acclaim.

Lower than anticipated ticket sales have been blamed on the slow return of film fans to the cinema, amid the pandemic and the latest variant.

Despite calls for further supportive action from the government, Chancellor Rishi Sunak made it clear in his October Budget announcement that  “after the emergency spending of the pandemic, I am reining spending and borrowing back in to reduce the nation’s overall debt”.

Matthew Fell, chief policy director at the CBI, stressed that the new restrictions were a “big setback for businesses”, especially in hospitality, retail and transport at such a critical time.

“It will be vital that the impact of these restrictions is closely monitored, and that the government is ready with targeted support as required,” he said

Many business are focussed on doing whatever it takes to protect public health, but also face a dire-predicament of how to ensure business survival.

The Tycoon Herald