talking trade Covid-19 is still a threat

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), examines how independents need to tackle the winter months ahead

previous year, and the new restrictions will only make it worse. Over the past few weeks we have been asked about changes to regulations and the impact on shops and the people who work in them. We have received hundreds of calls and emails asking for clarity on face coverings, the threat of closures, and the use of changing rooms for example.


e started with red, amber, green. Now we have tiers one, two and three. The overriding message should be clear

to all of us – Covid-19 is still a threat to lives and livelihoods. After the latest announcement we can

breathe a sigh of relief that retail shops have not been forced to close – apart from Wales which has now gone into its own lockdown with only essential retailers allowed to open. However, we must recognise that retail is affected by any new measures and restrictions. Retail does not work in isolation and footfall is all important to anyone with premises on the high street.

Retail works best when the whole of the high

street is trading normally and consumers can make a trip to the shops a genuine experience involving food, drink and maybe entertainment. We are currently a long way from where we were a year ago. Even in the summer, footfall remained on average 30 per cent below the

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Let me take this opportunity to confirm that all employees in a consumer facing role must wear face coverings, even if the employee is wearing a visor. A visor is not considered as a face covering so please focus on the implementation of face coverings – for staff and customers. A face covering is now a legal requirement (please note that staff do have the same exemption as customers). Our best advice with regards the new three tier system is simple – work to the highest level of safety protocols irrespective of where you are in the UK. Retail did so much to prepare for re-opening back in June and that same focus is now required. To be honest, as I visit shops around the

country I believe that there has been less focus on the basics – retailers have become more relaxed. My experience applies to large and small retailers, but this more relaxed approach is risky and one we cannot afford to take. Bira has been telling government

departments, MPs, Ministers and senior civil servants that shops are low risk in terms of the spread of Covid-19. If we want to maintain that situation, it is down to us all to keep shopping safe. The simple message from the • October 2020

government – hands, face, space – is applicable to all retailers all of the time. To avoid being closed down, retailers must ensure that hand sanitiser is available and used. You must remind and challenge shoppers to wear face coverings. You must ensure that there is one metre space in the shops where possible. All the relevant messaging should be clear and visible, and remember that these are not negative messages. All these actions reassure the consumer that shopping is safe and will help retain the footfall. Covid-19 will be a negative force to contend with in 2021 – any thought of it being vanquished in 2020 have long gone. Bira recognises that reality and is now campaigning for more support for independent retailers – especially by pushing for an extension of the current rates holiday beyond March 2021. We also want to see more done to help the smaller retailers fund the changes to their business models and the development of online presence. Our focus is on keeping your livelihood safe.

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