Can our high streets bounce back with consumer confidence crippled by coronavirus?

Author
Ian Mean
Director of Business West Gloucestershire | Business West
10th June 2020

The real starting gun to try and fire up the economy through opening up our high streets has now been fired but consumer confidence is going to be the key.

Business, of course, welcomes the Business Secretary Alok Sharma’s announcement that non-essential shops will be able to open from Monday 15 June.

And today we will be hearing from Boris Johnson that our cash-strapped zoos and safari parks will also be allowed to open - many had been on the brink of closure.

Announcing the relaxation of the non-essential shops yesterday evening, Mr Sharma told us:

“This is the latest step in the careful re-starting of our economy and will enable high streets up and down the country to spring back to life.

“In the new normal, we have all got used to social distancing. Now is the right time to apply these principles more widely to more shops as we continue our cautious re-opening of the economy.”

Nothing wrong with these warm words of encouragement at all.

In my view, what is lacking is confidence from shoppers who I believe will still be very wary about rushing to the shops on Monday.

I think that confidence must start to be exerted by the Prime Minister at a time when the opinion polls are giving his government a tough time.

That confidence is not helped by the government’s U-turn yesterday in scrapping the return of primary school children until September at least.

I cannot disagree with the Daily Telegraph’s associate editor, Camilla Tominey when she writes today: “Having announced that non-essential retail-including betting shops-will reopen from Monday, it seems children have been pushed down No 10’s list of priorities.”

It now seems that the government’s two-metre distancing rule is proving to be a big stumbling block to all the businesses who are not being allowed to open until July - particularly pubs, cafes and restaurants.

When the World Health Organisation and most other European countries are adopting a one metre or one a half metre distancing rule, why are we still sticking to the two metres?

Pubs and restaurants are warning they will be barely profitable under two metre distancing.

Alok Sharma admitted: “I do get why business in a whole range of sectors make the economic case why you want to move closer than two metres.

“We will keep this under review and only make changes when it is safe to do so”.

We simply must do everything to get our economy back on track, but the government has to give us far more confidence to believe they are following the right road map.

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