The government has been warned that it is “imperative “that the current lockdown operating in England is time-limited to give businesses the opportunity to reopen for the vital festive period.
In a call for stability within the sector, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, speaking before a government select committee this morning (November 17) said that the government urgently needs to clarify whether hospitality will reopen on 2 December as the sector is currently “depleting cash reserves, burning through cash at a terrific rate. We estimate the sector is spending £500 million in November just to remain closed”
Ms Nicholls said the lockdown in England had seen hospitality go from a ‘precarious position’ at the end of September back into ‘intensive care’. “Businesses are in a far less resilient place than they were in the first lockdown” she said.
When examining the levels of trade for the sector since the lockdown was lifted at the beginning of July Ms Nicholls explained that whilst hospitality businesses were able to reopen they never really came out of restrictions due to the ongoing need to social distancing and limits on group sizes, as a result restaurants and pubs never got above breakeven levels of takings before national restrictions, the rule of 6 and the 10 PM curfew came into force.
She added that “at the end of 2019 hospitality was the 3rd largest employer in the UK with a workforce of 3.2 million people and an annual turnover of 130 billion. We were forecast to grow 5% year-on-year and generate one in 6 net new jobs. But at the end of the 3rd quarter of 2020 before the impact of the new lockdown is taken into account we have lost 660,000 jobs, turnover had fallen by 40% to just £80 billion and we have lost all of our foreign export earnings in terms of international tourism.
Also addressing the committee Ralph Findlay, CEO of the Marston’s, the brewery which operates 1,300 pubs in England, lamented a lack of communication from the government, and urged it to not make the same mistakes in the run-up to the lockdown’s end.
“I don’t know what restrictions at this point I’ll be working to. “We need at least a week in order to plan what tier we are going into.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said the social and economic impact of the latest England lockdown has been “severe” and that many firms face going bust.
“The most important thing is that we have real clarity that that reopening goes ahead as planned,” she said.
So far this year, she said 13,800 stores have had to close and that number will rise sharply if businesses can’t open for Christmas, not least because the online and logistics capacity of most retailers is “close to capacity.”