Non-essential retailers in Wales and the Republic of Ireland have been ordered to close for two weeks from Friday under a second lockdown. This had led retailers to consider the implications if England were to follow suit.
Retail Insight Network asked industry experts “Is non-essential retail closure the next step for England?”
“Non-essential retail is not under threat”
Jewellery retailer Diamonds Factory head of e-commerce Ben Stinson said: “We believe that non-essential retail is not under threat, even with the strict local lockdowns. At Diamonds Factory, we are continuing to see customers visiting our stores and feeling comfortable doing so.
“There will always be the need for physical retail within several consumer industries, including jewellery, as the buying process and overall value of the product generally requires the customer to see it in person. Although companies like ours make a significant amount of sales online, it is imperative we continue with physical stores being kept open.”
Retailers in England hope for less extreme measures.
Payment phone app Stocard managing director UK & Ireland David Ringer said: “Whilst we’ve already seen the closure of non-essential retail shops in Ireland and Wales, retailers in England will undoubtedly be hoping for less extreme measures in the run-up to prominent retailing moments such as Black Friday and the Christmas period, which many retail stores will be relying on to make up for the huge losses already faced this year.
“Those retailers without a developed online offering are particularly exposed in contrast to those who have successfully digitised their shopping and loyalty experience, enabling them to stay connected to loyal customers through targeted offers, communications and personalised deals.”
England will “surely” follow Wales and Ireland
e-commerce company xSellco CMO David Keene said: “Retail habits evolved during lockdown, sharply contrasting hospitality which remains a key social interaction. Acceleration of online shopping since March, alongside ongoing Tier 3 restrictions, surely means England will follow Wales and Ireland. This positions online as the primary method for acquiring non-essential goods again, as the past six months showed we don’t have to visit high streets.
“The e-commerce surge will continue in England towards Christmas, as increased restrictions and poor weather dent consumer footfall, undoubtedly disrupting Black Friday. The government should take note and offer digital support to non-essential retailers to help them future-proof services.”
A second lockdown in England could “spell the end” for some retailers
Company rescue and recovery specialists Forbes Burton managing director Rick Smith said: “It is looking more likely that England will follow in the footsteps of Wales by opting for a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown. Closing non-essential retailers may be good for stopping the spread of the virus during a second wave, however, it could spell the end for many smaller, and indeed larger stores.
“Many non-essential retail stores are still trying to regain a footing after the first mass closures, and if they are forced to close again the effect will be devastating. There has already been a severe rise in shops closing permanently and another lockdown will see that number increase dramatically.”
A second lockdown in England will “cause untold damage” to worker health
Retail charity retailTRUST CEO Chris Brook-Carter said: “This is supposed to be retail’s Golden Quarter, and further closure of non-essential stores will cause untold damage to a sector that has already experienced its harshest period in history. A record 13,867 stores have closed and 125,000 jobs lost this year already. Retail workers are already under huge pressure from redundancy threats, the anxiety of furlough and increased verbal, violent and racial abuse in stores.
“Any decisions around another lockdown must take into account the added financial distress and uncertainty that will undoubtedly further impact retail colleagues’ emotional wellbeing. Without action, we, at retailTRUST, believe we are heading towards a mental health storm that could impact millions of retail workers in the UK.”
Retailers need to ensure they are adapting to “fit into the new normal”
Software company Bloomreach UK MD Michael Schirrmacher said: “A second lockdown will definitely be devastating for the retail sector and the new restrictions will cause further damage to many retailers in the UK. We have seen many brands close stores because of reduced high-street footfall and consumers doing their shopping online more.
“Retailers need to ensure they are adapting to fit into the new normal and continue to increase investments in core digital commerce technologies, such as online channels like web, apps, social, and third-party marketplaces that impact great experiences and keep one thing in mind that this isn’t just an initiative to get through the pandemic.”