Following the latest attempts to curb the spread of a new strain of coronavirus that is causing a surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the United Kingdom, the Government have announced the latest set of measures which includes Tier 4 restrictions for London, the south-east and east of England.
Under the Tier 4 restrictions non-essential shops, hairdressers and leisure and entertainment venues must close, with a new “stay at home” message being introduced. Karen Holden, CEO of A City Law Firm, explains more and offers advice to retailers planning for 2021.
For the third time this year, non-essential retailers were told to shut up shop from midnight on Sunday 20 December. The decision gave retailers less than 12 hours’ notice.
This follows a bleak year for the high street, and retailers are urgently calling on the Government to step up financial support for affected businesses which have been forced to close in the last days before Christmas.
Many retailers rely on a last-minute rush to stores at what is normally the busiest trading period of the year.
Andrew Goodacre, the chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), that represents thousands of independent shops, commented that the closures in the south and south-east were “a disaster for those businesses.”
“They have only been open for 17 days in the busiest month of the year and will now miss out on the festive period and new year sales. They need financial support that reflects what they have lost, and certainly better than the grants made available in November, many of which have not been paid.”
He advised that BIRA believe closing down COVID-19-secure non-essential shops at this time of year will not deter people from going out and will only result in large crowds forming in those stores left to trade, giving greater opportunity for this virus to spread. BIRA therefore recommend that all shops are allowed to stay open until at least Christmas Day, but this was to no avail.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), concurred stating “we recognise that the government has difficult decisions to make, and the situation with the pandemic is very fast moving, but this is hugely regrettable news. Retailers have invested hundreds of millions of pounds making stores COVID-secure for customers and staff, and SAGE’s advice has said throughout that closing non-essential retail has a minimal impact on the spread of the virus.”
How long will the measures last?
The measures will be reviewed on 30 December 2020, as part of a wider review of tier restrictions. However, it is unlikely the worst affected areas will emerge from tier 4 before the end of the year, and the health secretary, Matt Hancock, even warned that these restrictions are likely to last for months, until the vaccine has been rolled out across the UK.
Businesses must look forward
The COVID-19 pandemic has had profoundly impactful and far-reaching effects across the world and has been more complex than any other crisis in living memory. However, the emergence of vaccines offers a light at the end of the tunnel.
Although the paths for different industries will vary, the overarching principles for all businesses planning for 2021 and life after the pandemic will be similar.
Doing so includes taking the following steps:
- Embrace this fundamental reframing – widely described as the “next normal” – means confronting uncertainty head-on and building it into your decision-making.
- Plan for a positive best-case scenario in 2021 that reflects life before the pandemic, whilst harnessing the vital lessons learned over the past year.
- Build your 2021/22 plans on your company’s 2019 trajectory, and not that of 2020.
- Begin launching company initiatives now and make 2021 a year of transition to a COVID-19 exit and greater predictability in 2022.
Exceptional circumstances, such as those of COVID-19, require a blend of courage, clarity, and humility. The companies that will succeed following the pandemic and have done well during the current crisis can turn their advantage into strong positions for years to come.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.