UK in lockdown: forced closures sees empty high streets

As the UK was forced into lock down on the weekend the high streets across the nation were eerily empty. The reduced footfall will see an enormous impact on financial forecasts and results, with companies like Burberry and Fraser’s Group already issuing profit warnings.

On Friday the UK Government announced further measures on social distancing, temporarily closing down entertainment and hospitality premises and urging people to only travel if absolutely essential. Many boutiques and retailers, like Harrods, Selfridges, Topshop and all stores across the Arcadia Group portfolio, followed suit. The latter will close over 500 stores, a further slump to Philip Green’s ailing retail empire.

Relief measures for struggling stores include many asking landlords for rent holidays. Some owners, like King’s Cross developer Argent, who’s retail neighbourhood includes Coal Drops Yard and Pancras Square, have agreed to a three-month grace period waiving rents, which will benefit many niche fashion businesses. Primark is reportedly reviewing and canceling future orders and Debenhams has requested a five-month extension to pay its bills.

On Sunday London’s mayor Sadiq Khan warned for people to not interact and adhere to the strict social distancing rules, including not shopping for non-essential goods.

Social media is rife with tips on how to survive self quarantine and isolation, with home exercise, video cocktail hour or taking up hobbies like sewing or re-decorating offered as a means to pass the time, though it won’t cure any of the woes facing the high street.

No-one needs a new outfit to stay at home

As Next chief executive Lord Wolfson said in a trading statement last week, “demand will be the biggest issue and although the virus is likely to impact operations, we do not believe this will be as damaging as the very significant drop in sales sustained both in retail and online. Online sales are likely to fare better than retail but will also suffer significant losses. People do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.”

Photo: Unsplash


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