Northern Ireland’s non-essential retail hit by new lockdown from Boxing Day
Non-essential retailers in Northern Ireland have been dealt another hefty blow as the devolved government demanded they close for six weeks from the end of trading on Christmas Eve in a latest bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Even store-based click-and-collect services have been banned, giving pureplay online retailers a clear space in which to operate in the still-key post-Christmas and January sales periods.
Although ministers said they will review the measures after four weeks, the enforced closure in the run-up to News Year's Eve and beyond will be a shutdown too far more many retailers.
Trade body Retail NI said the new lockdown will result in a "tsunami of independent retailers falling and thousands more jobs being lost with permanent damage done to our local high streets”.
Its chief executive Glyn Roberts called the new lockdown “profoundly disappointing”. He told the BBC: ”Independent retailers selling clothes, books and toys will be forced to close their doors without even a click-and-collect option, while large supermarkets will remain open selling those same products. Where is the fairness in this"?
He added: ”It is also extremely concerning that many businesses are still awaiting financial support payments from the last lockdown”.
Close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauty salons will also have to shut for the period, alongside hospitality businesses.
Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said it was "the news that we have been dreading for some time. Unfortunately this will sound the death knell for so many who will simply not be able to see through this enforced period".
He added: "The impact on the economy will run into the hundreds of millions, thousands of redundancies and a sector dead on its feet”.
Although Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly said the group accepted that non-essential retail has to close for a short period, he noted that “it was vital that shops could reopen at the end of the six-week lockdown.
"We are asking government urgently to provide clarity about the criteria for reopening and to ensure that affected businesses are supported in the coming weeks”.
In announcing the latest decision, deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill said she recognised the lockdown would be "disappointing" for many, it was clear a "longer and deeper intervention" was necessary.
"The health service would be completely crushed in January if we didn't intervene now, so while this is draconian, it's about saving lives," she said.
"We've never been in such a bad position as we are now, and will be in January if this didn't happen now.”
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