The UK’s non-essential retailers are getting ready for a June 15 reopening date, after retail sales volumes tumbled in the wake of lockdown measures imposed to slow the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak. But, shopkeepers are concerned about the business environment, and more than a third of women and youth declared that they intend to buy less clothing.
The country’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, said that “Covid secure” retail premises ranging from department stores to small independent shops could reopen on June 15. The government also released new guidance on social distancing and hygiene measures retail outfits need to follow to resume business.
As retailers get ready, distributive trades data from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed that retail sales volumes in the year to May fell sharply, although at a slower pace than in the year to April. Its monthly reading of -50 was up from a record low of -55 in April, while CBI noted volumes are also expected to fall at a slightly slower pace in June.
The CBI survey of 87 retailers released on May 26 showed that four-fifths reported cash-flow difficulties in May, also an improvement on the previous month, when the figure stood at 96 percent. The number of retailers reporting temporary layoffs increased to 53 percent in May, while the number reporting permanent layoffs was unchanged at 8 percent.
Optimism about the general business situation in the coming three months fell at the fastest pace since the 2008 financial crisis. And retailers also reported the sharpest fall in import penetration in the survey’s history, a factor CBI said likely reflects disruption to global supply chains.
In the fashion industry, the market awaiting British retailers may have changed due to the health situation. A report published by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) showed that 35 percent of women and of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed intend to purchase fewer clothing items in the future. During the health crisis, 28 percent of respondents had been recycling or reusing more of their fashion purchases than they normally would, and 83 percent agreed clothes should be designed to last longer and be repairable.
Half of those taking part in the RSA survey also said they think the fashion industry should do whatever is needed to become more environmentally sustainable and just 19 percent believe there should be a return to business as usual. On the other hand, 40 percent indicated they are looking forward to buying clothes again and only 34 percent agreed that people should be prepared to pay more for clothes.
Sales of apparel and footwear may drop by 40 percent this year, according to the British Retail Consortium.