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Over 20,000 UK stores could remain permanently closed after lockdown, experts warn

By Huw Hughes

26 Mar 2020

As many as 20,620 UK stores could never reopen and 235,714 retail jobs could be lost after the country’s Covid-19 lockdown is lifted, experts say.

On Monday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson ordered the closure of all ‘non-essential’ stores, including fashion and electrical stores, in a bid to curb the growth of the coronavirus pandemic.

But once the lockdown is lifted - which the government perhaps too-optimistically suggested could be in three weeks - thousands of stores will likely never reopen, according to experts from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

According to their “Coronavirus: Lost Lives, Lost Stores and Lost Jobs” report, a total of 20,620 retail stores will have pulled their shutters for the final time by the end of 2020 - that’s up by 4,547 on 2019.

The lockdown, however necessary it is, is undoubtedly putting even more pressure on UK stores, many of which were already struggling amid weak consumer demand, high business rates and shoppers’ increasing tendency to buy online.

Professor Joshua Bamfield, director at the CRR, said in a statement: “We expect large retail businesses to now be looking at exactly how many stores they expect to operate in 2021 and beyond in order to trade successfully moving forward. They will now make plans to achieve those objectives.”

The report does forecast a moderate ‘V’ type shape of recovery once the lockdown measures are lifted with a possible “splurge of cash” by late summer 2020.

Job losses this year could also rise to 235,714 up by 92,576 compared with 2019, according to the CRR, as stores close and retailers look to cut costs.

Professor Bamfield noted that the government’s measures announced during the pandemic, such as the business rates holiday for retailers, will significantly limit store closures and job losses.

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Photo credit: Marylebone Village