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New restrictions ‘will crush revenue’ say retailers
David Lonsdale: ‘complex’ rules (pic: Terry Murden)
Businesses have reacted with dismay at new Covid restrictions around takeaway and click and collect services in Scotland, describing them as “complex” and “revenue-crushing.”
Only shops selling items such as clothing, footwear, baby equipment, homeware and books will be allowed to offer click and collect.
All collections must be outdoors, with appointments staggered to avoid queuing. Takeaways can no longer allow customers indoors, and must instead operate from a hatch or doorway.
The changes are among six new rules that will come into force on Saturday, including a ban on drinking alcohol outdoors.
Addressing MSPs at Holyrood First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said new lockdown restrictions appear to be having an effect, with the rise in new daily cases seen around the turn of the year slowing down.
However, she said there is ‘no room for complacency’, adding: ‘It is too soon to be entirely confident that the situation is stabilising.
‘Even if it is, this will only be because of lockdown – it is not, unfortunately, an indication that it is safe to ease it yet in any way.’
The announcement was expected and followed warnings from hospitality and tourism businesses that further extended closures could wipe out early summer trade and will require more government support.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The situation with the pandemic is fast moving and we fully recognise government wants people to stay home.
“However these further revenue-crushing restrictions and the fresh complexity they bring, together with constant chopping and changing to the Covid Strategic Framework, are disconcerting and come at an incredibly difficult time for retail.
“Firms operating click and collect or food-to-go takeaway have taken every reasonable step to make their operations as safe as possible, complying with every twist and turn to government guidance and often at pitifully short notice.
“They have demonstrated they can operate safely and have invested significantly to make their premises Covid-secure, and it appears no evidence to the contrary has accompanied this announcement.
“The businesses affected – who have already lost much of their income during the crisis – are trying to make the best fist possible of the current severely curtailed trading conditions, and that just got even harder as a result of this decision which will add to their cash flow woes.
“The blunt reality is that the taxpayer-funded grant support on offer won’t make up for lost sales and firms’ mounting bills and debt during this pandemic.
“Even when we eventually emerge from lockdown shops will be unable to trade at capacity due to physical distancing and caps on numbers in stores, while the threat of a return to full business rates liability in April still looms.
“Decisive action is urgently required to extend rates relief into 2021-22 and avoid April’s reverse cliff edge which will see 100% reinstatement of business rates.”
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “Firms have worked relentlessly to keep their shops, offices and factories Covid secure.
Tracy Black: business needs compelling evidence for over sources (pic: Terry Murden)
“Click and collect is a lifeline to many businesses, particularly smaller firms, as one of their few remaining revenue streams. When well organised, click and collect services instinctively feel like a safe way for firms to keep trading.
“Of course, firms can choose to suspend click and collect if that makes sense for them, but for many others it could mean the difference between business survival or not.
“It’s really important that the Scottish Government sets out compelling evidence that these services are a source of transmission and provides additional, urgent support to compensate for what would be a further loss of revenue in increasingly challenging times.”
Debenhams to shut six stores permanently
Debenhams’ flagship Oxford Street store in London and five other branches will not reopen after the current coronavirus lockdown.
The department store chain, which is being wound down, said shops in Harrogate, Portsmouth, Staines, Weymouth and Worcester would also shut permanently.
It will mean 320 staff – including 140 at Oxford Street – who are currently furloughed will be made redundant.