11 Nov 2020

Open letter to Bira members from CEO Andrew Goodacre

Dear Bira Member,

I am writing to you to provide an update on the work being carried out by Bira on your behalf during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

As you are aware, from November 5, to December 2, 2020 inclusive, all ‘non-essential’ retailers were required to close for the second time this year as part of the Government’s measures to curb rising cases of coronavirus.

Bira disagrees with this decision and we continue to make a strong representation to the Government about this damaging decision. Our arguments to the Government are:

  • Shopping has never been safer. The difference in retail compared to March this year is that you have all implemented the safety protocol – perspex, safe distance notices, hand sanitiser and face coverings are mandatory. Retail does not spread the virus.
  • The implementation of essential vs non-essential has created an unfair business environment with the smaller specialist shops being punished. We would like to see more of the large general retailers closed
  • This four-week lockdown will cause more damage to business than the previous one that lasted 13 weeks. This is because of the time of year and the importance of November and December to all retailers
  • More financial support is needed because the current level of grants are insufficient to mitigate the financial impact of the lockdown

While we support the Government in protecting lives and the NHS, it is clear that we need clarity over the types of retailers allowed to remain open, and the types of products which can be sold.

I have been liaising with representatives from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and – as we have shared with you - the Government has listened to us and the official guidance does have recommendations for how the large stores should operate, reducing the sales of so-called non-essential items.

While there are still no restrictions on what a mixed retail space can sell, businesses with distinct areas of ‘non-essential’ and ‘essential’ products must close access to the areas of ‘non-essential goods’. Similarly, instore concessions selling non-essential items are prohibited.

However, the guidelines are not enforceable by law, and we want to see more done. Ultimately we want see a reversal of the decision to close down essential retail will be continuing to lobby for homeware retailers to be classed as ‘essential’.

We also believe more must be done to prohibit large chains, particularly those with mixed retail space, from continuing to open when they should also be required to close. We know members have been visited by authorities and in some cases closed. We expect the same approach with the large stores.

You can also help with our campaign. I would urge you all to contact your locals MP – recently a group of MPs have started to challenge these lockdown decisions because they share our concerns. Also, please sign this petition and share with friends, customers on all the social media channels.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our membership team on 0800 028 0245.

Andrew Goodacre

Bira Chief Executive

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