Almost 190,000 jobs have been lost in the retail bloodbath since stores were first forced to close their doors a year ago, according to new figures.
In exclusive data for the PA news agency, the Center for Retail Research has revealed that 188,685 retail jobs disappeared between the start of the initial lockdown on March 23, 2020 and March 31 of this year.
The numbers come less than two weeks before non-essential stores reopen their doors to customers in England after the long third lockdown.
However, shoppers will visit main streets and city centers that have been badly hit by the pandemic, and thousands of stores will close their doors for good.
The numbers showed that 83,725 jobs during the reporting period were administrations, including major collapses at Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group.
Around 11,986 jobs were cut during the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) restructuring process.
Another 92,974 jobs were cut through rationalization programs, which included Sainsbury and Asda supermarkets, which cut thousands of roles.
The devastating effects of the pandemic resulted in 15,153 store closures in shopping destinations across the UK.
Up to 401,690 stores across the country are currently closed and could reopen in the next phase of the prime minister’s roadmap, according to real estate consultant Altus Group.
Retail bosses have raised concerns that despite the easing of restrictions, the high street will still be a major challenge for retailers as payments for business rates return for many.
Robert Hayton, UK president for property tax at Altus, warned that the current tax rate regime could wreak further havoc.
He said: “As of July 1st, major retailers in England will effectively revert to full business rate liabilities, calculated by reference to rents paid six years ago, which have no resemblance to the here and now, to the fundamental right to appeal Valuation adjustments to be inserted are subsequently removed. “
A government spokeswoman said: “We have continued to support the retail sector throughout the pandemic, including our new £ 5 billion Restart Grant program that expands the vacation program and VAT cut, and gives 750,000 businesses in retail and other sectors business rate relief.” offers a £ 350 billion package in support of jobs and livelihoods.
“As we are building better on coronavirus, we want our high streets to thrive. We have set up an accelerated Future High Streets Fund of £ 1bn and a Leveling Up Fund of £ 4.8bn and we are working with local executives through the High Street Taskforce to help the city centers, the regeneration of the main streets and support growth across the UK. ”
Meanwhile, Helen Dickinson, executive director of the British Retail Consortium, said that “absolute” stores will be offered on high streets, but the government must act to reduce the burden on business rates.
Asked about the reality of both chains and independent stores disappearing from the main streets, she told BBC Breakfast, “This is a real thing, and as I said, a real thing that happened before March 2020.
“And you know there are a lot of reasons for it and one is that kind of online shift that you mentioned and there will be fewer shops there in the future, but there will definitely be shops on the main streets .
“But what we have to align behind that is really redesigned city centers and main streets that include retail but go beyond retail.”
Ms. Dickinson said retail has to be economical for people to operate, adding, “This is where government is really important.
“People in retail and hospitality who run business premises are always talking about business rates.
“So these are the taxes that are paid on shops, restaurants and cafes, and they just got completely out of the economic realities of doing business, and so the government there has to act to ease that burden, and that’s going to be a lot more investment that we need to see to get local jobs in local communities and to stop those boarded-up shops and restaurants across the country. “