23 Feb 2021

'Reopening date is good - but we need consistent support', says Bira CEO

'A date for reopening is good, but support for indies must be consistent and ongoing', writes Bira's CEO Andrew Goodacre.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister set out his road map to recovery from lockdown including the date when non-essential retail will be able to reopen.

Here, Andrew shares his views on the way forward, and the type of ongoing support indies will need to recover.

"So, we have a date for re-opening the so-called 'non-essential' shops – April 12. It is good to have a date but it is very disappointing you cannot open before Easter. Many of you missed out on the busy festive period and now Easter will another missed opportunity. We respect the roadmap set out by the Government but we know that non-essential retail is safe and recent research states that 20% of customers feel safer in small shop," he says.

"Our focus is now on the support independent retailers receive at each of the stages in the roadmap. It is a shame that more reassurance regarding the provision of support could not be announced by the Prime Minister, but it seems they are delaying anything until the Budget – a case of dates before data! However, next Wednesday (March 3) we would like to see:

  1. Extension of the rates holiday for the whole of 2021/22. It is unlikely business will return to normal until consumer confidence is fully restored
  2. Extension of the legal moratorium preventing landlords from taking legal action. This is due to end on March 31
  3. Extension of the furlough scheme as businesses open up with lower footfall

"We have previously campaigned regarding extending the terms for the various loans offered by the Government, and changes were made a couple of weeks ago. We hope the Chancellor continues to listen to us and protect businesses, livelihood and jobs as we look to recover from more than a year of disruption.

"As well Covid-19 disruption many of you are also faced with higher costs due to the Free Trade Agreement with the EU, mainly from extra duties, VAT and delivery costs. We continue to raise concerns with the various government departments. I would you also to check our website for all the latest guidance to help you navigate a way through these many changes."

Bira's disappointment retailers would miss crucial Easter trading received wide media coverage including reports on the BBC, and in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mirror and London Evening Standard.

Elsewhere, Bira member Patricia Sutherns of Simpley Natural in Nottinghamshire spoke to The Guardian about her thoughts for the future here

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