Non-essential shops across Scotland are facing a further nine weeks of closure as the First Minister unveiled her refreshed Covid-19 Strategic Framework to MSPs yesterday, with plans set in place for re-openings on April 26th this year.
The newly announced planned date of non-essential’s ‘great reopening’ will mark the end of what will by then total a 17 week period of closure since the start of the current lockdown was imposed on Boxing Day last year.
The Scottish Retail Consortium estimates that each week of the current lockdown is costing stores deemed non-essential around £135 million in lost revenues. It adds that by the time they are permitted to re-open, many non-essential shops in Scotland will have been compelled to close for eight of the previous 13 months.
The Strategic Framework document says that from early April the stay home order will be rescinded, current curbs on click and collect may be lifted, and the definition of essential retailers “expanded slightly”.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers have been eagerly awaiting an indication as to when they might be able to re-open and the First Minister’s provisional time frame does provide a sense of when that might be possible, albeit it is still over two months away.
“Scottish Ministers are clearly proceeding with an abundance of caution, and the decision from early April to scrap curbs on click and collect and expand the definition of essential retail are encouraging. Hopefully, this will see garden centres and homeware stores readmitted to the list of essential stores.
“These moves are a welcome vote of confidence in the retail industry’s ability to re-open safely. Now that we have a sense as to when shops may be able to re-open, retailers can turn their attention to communicating with their workforces, suppliers, and customers, and start to plan for getting back to doing what they do best; serving their customers.
“The industry stands ready to play its part in getting the Scottish economy moving again, after a torrid eleven months which has seen retail sales plummet and shop vacancies spike to a six-year high. It remains a concern there is a dearth of detail on what re-opening entails, and we will keenly await detail in due course about the sequencing of plans to re-open the economy.
“Re-opening alone isn’t a panacea for retailers, with shopper footfall likely to be constrained especially if there is a later re-opening of hospitality and tourism, and with the timeline for a return of office workers to city centres unclear. As such, continued financial aid will be required for shops and many retailers will still be in a fight to come out of this crisis. That’s why continued support from government for business costs and to sustain consumer confidence will be required.”