Electrical retailing trade association Retra is urging its members to lobby their MPs as a protest against the new COVID-19 lockdown measures that began in England today (November 5).
The latest restrictions mean all retail stores deemed ‘non-essential’ by the Government, including independent electrical retailers, which form a large proportion of Retra’s membership, have to close their doors to the general public until December 3.
Online and telephone sales and click-and-collect services remain unaffected, however Retra claims that the forced shop floor closures will take business away from the high street and drive it into the hands of non-specialist supermarkets and mass merchandisers.
It argues that this will deprive communities of the essential services which many independent retailers provide, particularly to the vulnerable and those who have limited, or even no, online or telephone access.
Howard Saycell, Retra chief executive, (pictured) said: “We are extremely disappointed that once again electrical retailers have been classified as non-essential. The Government deems garden centres, hardware stores, off-licenses and even kitchen, bedroom and bathroom showrooms essential, but not electrical retailers.
“Our members are being forced to close their doors to the public, despite having put COVID-19-secure measures in place to minimise risk of transmission, and despite the fact that many offer an invaluable service to their local communities.”
He added: “Not only that, but the survival of many independent retailers depends greatly on increased sales through this ‘golden quarter’ from Black Friday, through to Christmas and January sales. Our members will have been preparing for a busy selling period within current COVID-19 restrictions. However, they now face further erosion to their businesses as they watch their customers being forced to buy specialist goods from non-specialist, mixed retail stores. This is not a level playing field and the impact on the high street and the communities our members serve is potentially devastating.”
To put pressure on the Government to immediately review the non-essential status of electrical retailers, Retra has compiled a letter, which it urges all its members to sign and send to their MPs.
The letter requests MPs to raise the concerns highlighted by Retra on behalf of electrical retailers across the UK in debates, letters, Prime Minister’s Questions or whichever measures MPs feel will be most effective.
Mr Saycell said: “Very often the face-to-face part of our industry is forgotten, and yet collectively adds enormous contribution and value to the local community. While we understand the need to minimise the risk of transmitting coronavirus, this knee-jerk reaction by the Government has been badly thought-through and is quite frankly shambolic.”
Retra will continue to lobby the Government during lockdown and has already been in meetings with buying groups Euronics and Sirius, plus industry bodies AMDEA and Electrical Safety First (ESF), who all share similar concerns.
If you would like to add your voice to Retra’s campaign, whether you’re a member of Retra or not, you can download the template letter here. The letter can be personalised and amended according to your business.