Nov 4, 2020
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Shops extend hours pre-lockdown, Primark calls for 24/7 December hours

Nov 4, 2020

A raft of major UK stores are extending opening hours in a final push for much-needed sales before lockdown begins across England on Thursday, with non-essential retailers set to face £2 billion in weekly lost in pre-Christmas sales during the period.

image - John Lewis

Meanwhile, Primark has also called for extended store opening hours post-lockdown to make up for lost business and boost consumer safety in the run-up to Christmas. That contrasts to the original post-lockdown approach where many stores reduced their opening hours.

John Lewis is among a host of high street and shopping centre retailers opening later into the evening before the minimum four-week closure is enforced. The department store retailer said it plans to extend the opening hours of about a quarter of its 42 department stores.

Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer said around 200 of its stores are operating extended trading hours.

The late push comes amid forecasts from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) that non-essential retailers face losing £2 billion a week across the lockdown, an increase on the £1.6 billion during the previous lockdown because of the Christmas shopping period.

Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the CBI, said: “Sales at these stores remain well below the pre-pandemic levels and without clear and targeted government support, we will see many more shop closures and job losses in the coming months. This is despite a recent SAGE paper reporting that closing non-essential retail would have minimal impact on the transmission of Covid.”

Meanwhile, Primark owner ABF said it wants stores to be allowed to open for extra hours, possibly even 24-hour trading, in December to safely help retailers make up some of the trade lost during England’s latest high street lockdown.

The physical-stores-only clothing and lifestyle chain expects to miss out on £375 million sales in the second lockdown, adding to the £2 billion in sales already lost due to the pandemic.

ABF told the Guardian newspaper it would like 24-hour opening in some locations and wider Sunday opening times to enable social distancing. That would help retailers make up some of the trade lost during the latest high street lockdown in a safe way.

Its chief executive George Weston said he believed the government would try to “get the high street open” ahead of Christmas despite fears that the one-month lockdown might be extended.

He added: “It would be great if, for the time they do allow us to trade, they allow us extended hours through to Christmas. That would allow more people through stores safely. It would allow more shoppers to do their Christmas shopping on the high street and us to sell-through some of our stocks we have in stores and depots.”

Since news of the second lockdown was announced, shopper numbers were up 9% in the week to Saturday, data company Springboard said, although they remain far short of pre-pandemic levels.

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