Retailers and hospitality bosses have reiterated calls for fresh financial support measures as trade is hit by Omicron restrictions ahead of Christmas.
Businesses said consumer confidence has been hit by the latest headlines, with shops reporting reduced footfall and pubs seeing cancellations of bookings.
Londoners are bunkering down in a bid to ensure they can see family at Christmas, forgoing previous dining reservations and shopping trips, one restaurant CEO told the newspaper.
Concern is also growing about the possibility of tighter restrictions. A government source told The Sun: “You will be able to see your family at Christmas, but at this rate, you might not be able to do it in a pub. As for New Year’s Eve, that is a different story.”
“It looks as if the final weeks of Christmas will be a disappointment for retail, as it was last year, and a blow to business,” the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira)’s CEO Andrew Goodacre said.
He added: “As we look forward, and with fears of a lockdown in January growing, we need the governments in the UK to offer some clarity in terms of what businesses can expect in terms of financial support if the worst comes to the worst.”
Without “clearer guidance” on the future, businesses will be forced to “make their assumptions” which could “lead to reduced investment or even job losses.”
The trade body wants to see a return to previous pandemic help, including reviewing business rate plans for next year and increasing the discount to 75 per cent of the current levels.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said advice to work from home had “already destroyed Christmas for pubs, with mass cancellations of bookings.”
She added: “Further restrictions such as limits on group sizes, or even closing pubs, would be disastrous.”
Without full trade this Christmas, pubs will need a “full financial package” including support on VAT, business rates and a return of local authority grants.
Matthew Percival, CBI director of employment, said the net effect of plan b measures was “that demand in some sectors will be suppressed.”
“Those sectors hardest hit must be closely monitored as further targeted support may yet be needed,” he added.
Scotland’s first minister has added to calls mounting on Westminster for a fresh tranche of financial support for businesses.
Nicola Sturgeon said a lack of new support from the UK government meant “there is no money to compensate” businesses in the wake of further Covid restrictions.
This was “not acceptable,” Sturgeon said, echoing calls from other devolved nations urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to review support for ailing firms.