Food and drink industry leaders have been responding to the prime minister’s announcement of a new national lockdown, set to come into force from Thursday. Here is what they say.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive, BRC:
“Retail faces a nightmare before Christmas as the government proposes to close thousands of retail premises under this new national lockdown, denying customers access to many of their favourites shops and brands. It will cause untold damage to the high street in the run up to Christmas, cost countless jobs, and permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy, with only a minimal effect on the transmission of the virus.
“A recent Sage paper reported that closing ‘non-essential’ retail would have minimal impact on the transmission of Covid. This is thanks to the hundreds of millions of pounds retailers have spent making their stores Covid-secure and safe for customers and colleagues.
“The announced closure will have a significant economic impact on the viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. The previous lockdown cost ‘non-essential’ shops £1.6 billion a week in lost sales; now that we are entering the all-important Christmas shopping period, these losses are certain to be much bigger.
“We have no doubt that retailers will comply with the rules and play their part to ensure the British public can remain safe and have access to the goods they need. Nonetheless, government must also play its part, providing support to businesses that will be forced to close, otherwise the consequences for local retail will be dire.”
Ian Wright CBE, chief executive FDF:
“Confirmation that the furlough scheme will be extended is extremely welcome news for food and drink businesses who continue to feed the nation. However, we need further clarity that the food supply chain will be supported sufficiently.
“Without further reassurance thousands of jobs will be under threat as businesses consider closing their doors for good. The economic impacts of this decision threaten calamity unless we see further details of a rescue package in the next 72 hours.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality:
“Public health objectives are, rightly, the motive for the new measures, and for that reason we entirely support whatever proportionate action is necessary.
“The costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first, coming after periods of forced closure, the accumulation of mass debt and then significantly lower trading due to the restrictions of recent weeks. The sector was hit hardest and first, and this recent shutdown will hurt for months and years to come.
”The extension of furlough for a further month does help to protect our workforce during this difficult time.
“If hospitality, the sector that is our country’s third largest employer, is to survive and help drive economic recovery, it will need equivalent – or more – support than that of the first lockdown.
“Hospitality businesses have already been pushed to the limits, with many closures already. For those that have survived, viability is on a knife edge, as is the future of the tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on hospitality, including through its supply chain, right across the country.
“It is critical that businesses are given a lifeline to survive the winter, before being given the support to enter a revival phase in 2021, as the nation’s prospects improve. A clear roadmap out of lockdown and through the tiers will also be vital for businesses to plan their survival, and the safeguarding of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
“It is important to remember that some parts of hospitality, such as nightclubs, have not even been allowed to re-open. The support for those, now that potential reopening has been kicked further into the future, must be redoubled to ensure that they are not lost forever.”
James Bielby, CEO FWD:
“The extension of furlough is necessary given the damaging effect the four week lockdown will have on foodservice wholesale volumes, although it’s too late to save the hundreds of jobs which have gone already. With hospitality customers closed, foodservice wholesalers will struggle to maintain supply to schools, care homes and hospitals.
The short notice leaves them with stock they won’t be able to sell, and for the second time this year wholesalers find themselves footing the bill for lockdown. For seven months the government ignored this vital supply chain and it needs to correct its oversight by offering wholesalers the same business rates relief that was given to the supermarkets.”
James Lowman, chief excutive, ACS:
“Local shops are preparing to step up again, safely serving more customers with more products as we did during the last lockdown and throughout the pandemic. As with the first wave of coronavirus in the spring, the supply chain is sound and working well, and there is no need for anyone to buy more than normal.”
Vivienne King, chief executive, Revo:
“The second lockdown will be catastrophic for the high street and wider economy and government must act to provide the emergency support needed to enable retailers to survive and mitigate the damage that will be caused through the commercial property sector and financial system by another drastic cut in rental income.
“The government has extended the furlough scheme and must confirm now that it will extend the emergency business rates relief beyond April, to give retailers the breathing space over operating costs for next year and enable them to protect jobs through what is going to be a very bleak winter.
“The lockdown will also mean that many businesses which over the summer have been able to start paying rent may be unable to continue, meaning more losses will mount on top of the £4.5bn losses already sustained by property owners.
“We have repeatedly warned government that this is not sustainable and the high street cannot survive based on a mechanism of property owners compromising their own positions, since the capital to invest in our town and city centres will be exhausted.
“This is a responsibility for government to shoulder. There are simply too many jobs and livelihoods at stake, and the Treasury must provide direct financial support to underwrite some of the lost rental income to protect jobs and prevent the financial contagion spreading through the economy to the pensioners and savers who directly or indirectly rely on retail property for income.
“Government must learn the lessons of the first lockdown and recognise that property owners cannot continue to absorb the losses indefinitely. Failure to act could come with a heavy cost for our town centres.”
Stuart Reddish, national president, NFRN
“It’s regrettable that we are now about to enter our second national lockdown, although it is needed to keep the country safe.
“I know that NFRN members will, once again, rise to the challenge ahead whilst putting themselves at risk to keep the nation watered and fed.
“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, NFRN members have never stopped putting their communities first, ensuring customers have access to all the essentials that they need. For the next four weeks and beyond, they will continue to be a very stable point of contact in such a strange and challenging time.
“As before, the NFRN will continue to support members by sharing government and supplier announcements as news breaks, through our Hardship Fund which we created to alleviate some of the financial pressures that independent retailers may be facing, through advice and help with home delivery services and through our relationship with Jisp to offer mobile marketing, shopping and payment solutions through an app. Jisp brings the best of retail technology to NFRN members across the UK and ROI free of charge.
“The NFRN is there for independent retailers in their hour of need. We are here for you and together we can get through this.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive, British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA):
“As a sector we are of course devastated to have to close our pubs and are fearful for their future, but we recognise the situation and that the spread of Covid-19 is serious.
“Make no mistake, this could be the final straw for thousands of pubs and brewers. It will also create major disruption to our supply chain partners whose businesses are now also at severe risk.
“The level of financial support will need to be same, if not greater, than that provided for the first lockdown earlier this year. This means grants for ALL pubs sufficient to cover ongoing fixed costs, and compensation grants for Britain’s brewers who will also be permanently devastated by the lockdown. The news of the extension of the full furlough scheme for this lockdown period is welcome, but we await the full detail of it, and will need a full support plan far beyond the lockdown period to save our great British pubs and brewers.
“A clear, early signal on an economic stimulus package from April next year is a vital element of this. This includes extending the business rates holiday and the hospitality VAT cut, and support on beer duty.
“As ever, we stand ready to work with government on such a plan. We served our communities well throughout the first lockdown, and we want to continue to serve communities across the United Kingdom through this closure and for many years to come. Support from the government with investment in the pub and brewing sector will reap rewards economically and socially. Only such support will ensure that we can come together once more to enjoy the warm welcome of the great British pub with a great British pint once this crisis has passed.”
James Calder, chief executive, Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA):
“As if a second national lockdown in England wasn’t disastrous enough for pubs and independent breweries, government have gone further this time around and introduced an unjustified restriction banning pubs from selling takeaway beer, a service which was the only source of income for many businesses during the summer lockdown. This is baffling considering supermarkets will presumably still be allowed to sell packaged beer, whilst small breweries and pubs will not.
”It is nonsensical to impose these new restrictions when pubs have time and time again proved that they are Covid secure, both during lockdown when takeaway was their only option and since pubs re-opened on 4 July.
”After discussions with ministers and departments over the weekend we’re aware that this is being considered now by members of the Cabinet and need the government to urgently clarify the following, before regulations are put to Parliament on Wednesday.”
Hugo Mahoney, CEO Brakes:
“While it’s critical we do everything we can as a country to beat this pandemic, the second English national lockdown will be a heavy blow to our hospitality customers, and it remains to be seen what will now happen in Wales and Scotland. It places even greater strain on the wholesale industry and every part of the food supply chain. Christmas 2020 demand forecasting was already incredibly tough to predict, and this will only make things more complicated.
”Our immediate focus is on helping our customers continue to offer permitted services, such as takeaway. We are also working in an orderly way on ensuring as little food already in the supply chain is wasted as possible. Given the uncertainty of how quickly transmission rates can be brought under control, it is imperative the government provides a package of support for the hospitality industry, wholesalers and the interconnected supply chain. Beyond the extension of furlough, which is welcome, the Chancellor should level up the playing field by offering business rate relief to all business affected by the lockdown, not a select few.”
Nik Antona, national chairman, CAMRA:
“A second lockdown is a devastating blow for an industry that is currently on its knees. Pubs have already invested thousands to reopen Covid-safe environments despite facing seriously reduced incomes. Simply put, the new lockdown couldn’t come at a worse time.
“The government must introduce a robust support package for all pubs and breweries - regardless of their current rateable value. While an extension to the furlough scheme is welcomed, it does not go far enough. We need more details of how much support will be offered along with a clear roadmap out of lockdown to ensure local jobs and businesses are not lost forever.”
John Dunne, director general, UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA):
“Whilst we recognise the predicament that the government faces, with data highlighting the worsening coronavirus situation across the country, as an industry we feel extremely disappointed that the vaping sector has once again been overlooked as one providing essential goods and services. Only earlier this year Public Health England acknowledged the contribution played by vaping in helping smokers quit and recent research has again highlighted that vape products are much more effective than NRTs in helping smokers give up.
“It seems strange - and illogical - that the government is happy for people to continue shopping for alcohol in off licences, which don’t appear to be on the non-essential shop closure list, but does not allow them to buy vape products or gain specialist advice in store that can help them to quit smoking, which according to PHE is at least 95% more harmful than vaping e-liquids.
”Vape retail stores are already well kitted out to be compliant with social distancing measures and do not deal with high volumes of traffic like other outlets. Only last month the government-backed Stoptober campaign was encouraging smokers to quit, including through taking up vaping. Those who took up the challenge during the month now do not have access to the same level of support and products from their local vape stores. We will be making these points strongly to government on behalf of the industry and asking them to reconsider their stance on vape stores and reclassify them as essential in future.”
Paddy Lillis, general secretary, Usdaw:
“While we understand the need for another lockdown to help defeat this appalling pandemic, the Prime Minister cannot ignore the devastating impact this will have on our high streets in the run-up to Christmas. Retail was already struggling before the pandemic and the industry has suffered over 125,000 retail job losses and 14,000 store closures this year.
“Throughout the Covid crisis Usdaw engaged with the Government. However that joint working has stopped and the Government appears to no longer be listening, which is very worrying as we head towards a second lockdown. So today we want to hear the Prime Minister set out how the Government is going to support our high streets, as non-essential retail is closed at traditionally the busiest time of year.
“We have a choice here. Do we want to see the high street go to the wall, or do we want to save it? Retail is an important feature of our towns and cities; it employs three million people across the UK. What retail needs is a tripartite approach of unions, employers and government working together to develop a plan to help the industry through a second lockdown.”