Covid-19: Non-essential UK retailers to remain closed for further three weeks

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced the lockdown measures, first put in place on 23 March, will be extended for a further three weeks as the government continues to try and contain the spread of Covid-19.

This means non-essential retail stores will remain closed for at least another three weeks, including in areas such as fashion and electronics. Grocery stores, deemed essential by the government, will stay open in addition to pharmacies and funeral homes. Online retail is still being encouraged by Westminster.

During the daily press briefing on Thursday 16 April, Raab explained that while the number of Covid-19 cases is starting to flatten, it is too early to ease off the restrictions as it could precipitate a second wave of the virus.

"Overall we still don’t have the infection rates down as far as we need to,” said Raab. “The advice we have is that any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.”

The news, while expected, will bring a further blow to the UK high street. The BRC today revealed the worst retail sales since its records began in 1995. Retail sales decreased by 4.3% in March, compared to a drop of 1.8% in March 2019. Sales at this time last year were depressed by political uncertainty over Brexit, so the recent drop marks a substantial downturn.

Fashion retailers have been hit particularly hard, with even online sales tumbling in recent weeks. IMRG noted that online fashion retailers had witnessed a 23.1% year-on-year decline in sales for the month of March. Meanwhile, recent warm weather encouraged the sales of online gardening products (up 94.4%). Quarantined consumers also increased spend on electricals, which surged 40.2% as the population rushed to purchase home office equipment and entertainment products. Meanwhile, the ‘lipstick effect’ – the theory shoppers will still treat themselves to little luxuries when faced with difficult economic conditions – encouraged the sales of beauty products, which increased 36%.