English pubs reopen but 2000 did not survive the coronavirus pandemic

On Monday, people lined up outside Nike Town on Oxford Street in London.

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Shoppers braved unusually cold temperatures as they lined up outside stores in cities on Monday after restrictions on non-essential retail locations and outdoor hospitality locations were relaxed.

Shops and pubs have been closed since early January, when England entered a third strict national lockdown to fight an increase in coronavirus cases. The restrictions and a vaccination campaign have dramatically reduced the number of new cases and deaths across the UK.

Brits are expected to flock to shops and pubs for haircuts and pints of beer, but surging demand may be little consolation for businesses that were rocked last year by the UK’s worst recession in three centuries. And for some, relaxation comes too late.

The Forum for British Pubs estimates that at least 2,000 pubs have closed permanently over the past year. Many other retailers have also closed their doors for good despite government programs aimed at helping businesses during the pandemic.

UK stores have missed an estimated £ 30bn ($ 41.2bn) in lost sales during the country’s three lockdowns, according to the British Retail Consortium, which estimates 67,000 retail jobs were lost between December 2019 and 2020.
“Retailers are delighted to welcome their customers again,” said Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, in a statement. “While we expect an initial increase in spending when stores first open, the real test will be how that holds up. “

Many restrictions remain in place. Pubs, for example, are only allowed to serve customers seated at tables outside. The Brits may be ready to brave the freezing temperatures for a pint, but the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that only 40% of pubs will reopen on Monday because they don’t have enough outdoor space. According to government plans, indoor hospitality will be allowed no earlier than May 17.

Laine Pub Company CEO Gavin George said he’s lucky most of its 55 pubs have outdoor spaces. George spent around £ 250,000 ($ 344,000) to make these spaces warmer and more comfortable, but even that won’t attract enough customers.

“For a pub to be able to trade profitably, it must be able to trade indoors and outdoors without restriction. So I am very keen on the government sticking to its stimulus plan, ”he said.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of industry group UK Hospitality, told CNN Business that maintaining social distancing restrictions means that businesses that open will only be able to achieve 60% of their usual sales until the lockdown ends completely, which will not happen before June 21.

“Unfortunately, we will lose many companies and the road to recovery will be long. Those that will reopen will have heavy debt. It will be 18 months before we return to pre-pandemic profit and income levels, ”she added.

According to a PwC study compiled by the Local Data Company, 17,532 stores closed last year in the UK, compared to just 7,655 that opened. Many other stores “temporarily closed” during lockdowns may never return, the consulting firm warned last month.

Stores that survive will need to hire staff, resume rent payments and comply with new security requirements while facing a transition to online shopping and changing consumer habits as many people continue to shop. work from home.

“Government roadmaps in various parts of the UK are about to revive Main Street. But it’s going to be very different after Covid, as businesses will have to deal with the dual impact of constantly changing business and work environments, ”Zelf Hussain, PwC’s business restructuring partner, said in a statement last month.

– Chris Liakos, Anna Stewart and Will Godley contributed reporting.

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