The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that non-essential retailing may reopen in England on April 12 after having been closed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. England introduced a third national lockdown on Jan. 4.
Johnson said that the vaccination campaign underway in the U.K. has “dramatically changed the odds in our favour” and that “the end really is in sight.” He unveiled a roadmap with phased reopening of the country. The first milestone will be the reopening of schools on March 8.
On April 12, non-essential retailing, including clothing, will be allowed to resume as well as outdoor activities operations for pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms are also due to reopen.
International travel and indoor activity in restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars are expected to restart on May 17. The country expects to remove all limits on “social contact” from June 21.
In the meantime, the footfall in British stores continues to increase. According to the retail monitoring group Springboard, shoppers increased by 6.8 percent in the week to Feb. 20 compared with the previous week as they can still visit stores selling essential goods. The reading marks the fifth consecutive weekly rise and seems to indicate an underlying pent-up demand. Nevertheless, the footfall is 62.1 percent lower than a year earlier, according to Springboard.
The government’s roadmap also provides a clearer outlook for businesses. In the wake of Johnson’s announcement, the retailer Frasers Group said that it expects to post a non-cash impairment of over £100 million pounds (€115.8m-$140.8m) to freehold properties, other property, plant and equipment, and IFRS 16 right of use assets.
“Given the length of this current lockdown, potential systemic changes to consumer behaviour, and the risk of further restrictions in future, we believe this non-cash impairment could be in excess of £100m” and will be booked in the company’s results for the financial year ending April 2021, it commented.
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