Second Lockdown- An uneven playing field for the struggling retail sector by Asad Shamim
As I found myself walking in Tesco at the beginning of the second lockdown, it dawned upon me that non essential items such as their well known clothing range was still being sold to the general public.
This was despite the government stating that all essential retail, including clothing stores was to be closed completely from 4 November for four weeks.
Keeping this mind, it is far from surprising that the likes of Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s are the latest to come under fire from the hard hit retail sector.
The stance that has been taken by these big players is that government guidance had made it clear that all shops who sell a combination of goods and food are allowed to remain open.
This has caused a high degree of criticism and unrest amongst the retail sector. They have argued that the guidance has been extremely unclear and lacks clarity. The rules state that an organisation selling a number of essential retail items may essentially continue to sell items of non essential retail. Yet, at the same time, the Government states that a concession operating within an essential item store, must close.
It has also caused significant outrage and bewilderment in the retail sector, particularly fashion outlets in the UK. They have stock which is no use to them as they have been unable to clear fashion lines from last season. In essence, the majority of these retailers have been obligated throughout this period to continue to pay their rent, business rates and ever increasing overheads.
They have questioned the Governments interpretation of “essential items”. It has been a revues that essential items differ for different people at different points or stages of their life. For example, a pregnant woman or a woman who has more recently given birth may require baby and toddler essential items.
The British Retail Consortium have backed the retailers response and have stated that “The retail industry has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to make stores safe and secure for customers and we don’t believe that any retailers should be required to close. The new regulations create arbitrary lines over what is and isn’t an ‘essential’ retailer.”
It may also be argued that supermarkets were acting irresponsibly by keeping these sections open when the country was and still is desperately trying to minimise and curb the effects of the virus.
From the initial lockdown all retail businesses have ensured and spent a considerable amount of time and effort to adopt rigorous hygiene and social distancing measures.
The Government could have resolved this issue by creating a level playing field by standardising new procedures which apply across the board for retail sectors.
There is no denying that the Government is faced with an arduous task of the economy suffering a slow and painful downfall and flattening the curve in the increase of the virus to effectively save lives. However, it is an essential obligation on the part of the Government to assist all retail businesses who’s re struggling to survive amongst the ever growing pandemic.
The solution is simple- all retail should remain open going forward or should close completely.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Samantha Peters .