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Oct 16, 2020
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London retail reels on Tier 2 move, York, Manchester also under pressure

Oct 16, 2020

As UK coronavirus cases continue to rise, the government’s three-tier traffic light system sees inner and outer London moving into the more restrictive Tier 2 from Saturday. The government has introduced the system for England as it tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus without imposing a full national lockdown.

Photo: Sandra Halliday

It means stores will be able to stay open (as they would if it moved into the highest, most restrictive Tier 3). But Londoners will now be unable to shop with those who live in other households. The change is likely to dent consumer appetites for shopping in London still further and also to act as a coronavirus warning sign to tourists. So the prospects for stores in central London, where footfall has struggled to recover post-lockdown look grim.

The move is being supported by London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, although there’s anger in many London boroughs south of the Thames, where coronavirus infection rates are actually very low and even lower than surrounding areas where there are fewer restrictions.

Ahead of the announcement, the CEO of the Heart of London Business Alliance, Ros Morgan, had urged the government to “do everything possible to avoid placing further restrictions on central London,” adding that “all lockdown measures need to be evidence-based”. 

Morgan also called for an approach that kept “key sectors for the UK economy” open unless there was “firm scientific evidence from the government that these venues are responsible for a marked increase in transmission and a rise in cases. Currently there is limited persuasive evidence”.


Another key destination city that’s usually buzzing with tourists, York, has also moved into Tier 2 and is likely to see its shopping suffer as a result.

And UK fashion’s ‘second city’, Manchester, where a large number of fashion businesses are based, is now facing the prospect of even tougher Tier 3 restrictions.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has been making headlines in recent days as he pushes back against the government’s plan for his region to move into Tier 3. Burnham is also threatening legal action.

Retailers in the various regions being targeted are unhappy at what they say is inadequate government support for businesses with key support packages only triggered when stores are told they have to close. If stores are technically able to stay open but have no customers, they have major problems.

Ros Morgan said that “support more aligned to the previous furlough scheme is needed. We have already seen major disruption in communities across the North who are in Tier 2 and 3 of the new tiered system of lockdown. If London, the capital city and economic powerhouse of the UK, is locked down it will be significantly worse.”

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