Extended lockdown a ‘further blow’ to Scottish firms, says SRC
The extension of the lockdown restrictions in Scotland announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday is a ‘further blow’ to Scottish businesses, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).
The First Minister announced an extension to the lockdown affecting mainland Scotland until ‘mid-February’ in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Non-essential retailers will remain shut, after being compelled to close since Boxing Day. In November and December non-essential shops in west central Scotland were shuttered for a further three weeks, only re-opening on 11 December.
Last month, the SRC estimated that each week of lockdown meant these stores missing out on £135 million of lost sales. Since then garden centres and homeware shops have been compelled to close too, and government has placed curbs on retailers’ click and collect services.
David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: “The extended lockdown is a further blow to non-food stores who have already borne so much during this pandemic. Its incredibly frustrating as retailers in Scotland have invested over £50m thus far making stores Covid-secure for customers and staff, and SAGE’s advice has said throughout that closing non-essential shops has a minimal impact on the spread of the virus. Scottish stores are set to miss out on almost £950 million of lost revenues during the current lockdown period.
“The extended lockdown will serve to make it harder for some retailers to emerge from this crisis, and many others will be in serious difficulty. Even when we do eventually emerge from enforced hibernation the stark reality is that shops will be unable to trade at capacity due to physical distancing restrictions and caps on the number of customers in stores.
“This means that April’s abrupt ‘reverse cliff edge’ - which is set to see a 100% reinstatement of business rates – is simply not sustainable. Shopper footfall was down by a third prior to the current lockdown, and with retailers’ bills and debts mounting any return to a business rate poundage at a 21-year high is unthinkable.”
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said that the economic damage of a further lockdown in Scotland “cannot be underestimated”. However she added that news that the Scotland-wide lockdown will be extended is understandable given the worryingly high prevalence of the virus.
She said: “The Scottish Government must now redouble efforts to get business support to the firms that need it as quickly as possible. Similarly, the UK Government must look at extending the successful Job Retention Scheme to the end of June to protect jobs and livelihoods at risk. And both governments must work together on fuelling the much-needed economic recovery.”
Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, commented: “The extended lockdown restrictions will come as a heavy blow to much of Scotland’s business community who are already struggling to keep their heads above water and who now face further uncertainty over when they will be able to open their doors again.
“We cannot emphasise enough the importance of increasing the pace of distributing business support grants; this must be accelerated in order to prevent the significant collapse of businesses and jobs. We also call on the Scottish Government to use the Scottish Budget next week to outline measures to help restore much needed confidence and investment.
“We also urge the UK Government to seriously consider the clear need to extend the furlough scheme beyond April 2021 and outline further initiatives to protect business and jobs at the UK Budget in March.”