Commenting on the announcements from the latest Coronavirus briefing by the Prime Minister and Chancellor, Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG,said.
“Unprecedented times undoubtedly call for very extreme measures, and the latest announcements from the Prime Minister and Chancellor on COVID-19 certainly weren’t shy of that.
“There’s no escaping the fact that retail businesses are facing extreme pressure at the moment, but it’s a tale of two halves. Grocery is battling to keep up with surging demand, whilst large parts of the non-food sector are seeing a significant decrease. Meanwhile our highstreets will be struggling with plummeting footfall due to social distancing, whilst online supply chains are being stretched to their limits. In any case, adapting to the current situation is a colossal task for any business. Those that are severely distressed will be close to meeting their demise without help, and that has very human consequences, including job losses.
“News of a business rates holiday for those in this sector will be most welcome, being a sizeable operational expense for many retailers. Meanwhile, the offer of loans is likely to help cover other sizable costs impacting cash flow, including wages and rent. However, the loans will still need to be repaid further down the track, although immediate survival is naturally going to trump increased costs thereafter.
“With cash so critical in the industry, the measures announced are likely provide some necessary relief for the sector as it get to grips with the impact of COVID-19. Of course time will clearly be of the essence, and we’re not even in near the peak of the issue yet.
“In the weeks ahead we will need to see much more in the way of business and government collaboration as well consumer consideration. It’s only logical that underused non-food supply chains be repurposed to cater for the surges in demand in certain other categories, including grocery. Likewise, consumers are going to have to adapt their behaviour to accommodate the pressing calls to be more considerate when shopping.”
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