Retailers “desperately” need the government to provide details on a roadmap out of lockdown in order to plan for recovery after the pandemic, experts said as sales continued to fall.
The Prime Minister has previously said the government will publish plans to lift lockdown restrictions in the week of 22 February, with easing not expected to begin until schools reopen from 8 March at the earliest.
This morning accountancy firm BDO said the future for non-essential retailers – which were forced to close when the latest national lockdown was enforced in January – is “currently clouded with uncertainty”.
The latest data published today showed that retail sales slumped 10.1 per cent last month – the worst January result since records began in 2017.
However online sales boomed 132.8 per cent to their highest ever level as physical stores closed, in a boost for e-commerce firms but indicating further gloom for the beleaguered UK high street.
BDO’s head of retail Sophie Michael said: “Retailers have the additional problem of predicting how and when consumers will return, and at what level of spending.
“Added to this, consumers are already displaying potentially lasting new shopping habits and varying product preferences across all age groups.
“These challenges together with the need to provide a Covid secure environment are no small feat given the mounting pressures they face.”
She added: “Providing a roadmap out of lockdown is a tall order, but one that retailers desperately need so they can begin to plan for a sustainable future”.