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Bira: Shopping has never been safer

Fournier Street LondonIndependent retailer association Bira has called for a level playing field between chains and independent retailers during the lockdown in England and says specialist stores are being punished. 

In a letter to members, Andrew Goodacre, Bira chief executive says retailers need more financial support as the current lockdown will cause more damage than the first.

‘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,’ he says.

‘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.’

Goodacre urged members to contact their local MPs and sign its online petition.