Advice for retailers on dealing with Coronavirus.
It is a worrying time to be in retail, as shoppers are being encouraged to stay in their homes and self isolate or practise social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some employees within the retail world are deemed to be key workers, and should be able to still send their children to school or nursery, but for many who work in the sector as a whole, the future is less certain. At The Retail Factory, we have put together some advice for retailers on dealing with coronavirus.
What Are Shoppers Being Told?
Anyone with the most common symptoms of COVID-19, the current strain of coronavirus, is being asked to self-isolate at home for seven days if they live on their own. If they show the symptoms, a high temperature and/or a new, continuous cough, and live with others, they must self-isolate for seven days and the other members of the household must self-isolate for 14 days.
Even if there are no symptoms in a household, the public is advised to practise social distancing to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus. This includes avoiding non-essential use of public transport and avoiding large gatherings in public. Pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants and theatres have closed under instruction from the government. However, the government hasn’t made any specific pronouncements on retail yet. Currently, these measures to avoid crowds in spaces such as retail outlets are advisory, rather than compulsory.
What is the Result for Retailers
As a result of the measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19, many shoppers are avoiding the high street. This has led to many retailers laying off staff, reducing opening hours or even shutting down branches. Marks and Spencer has announced it has cancelled £100 million worth of clothes orders from suppliers, as the retail sector faces disruption on an unprecedented scale and with no clear idea of how long it will last.
Many shops across the UK have attempted to change the way they work in order to serve customers. Free home deliveries have allowed a large number of local stores to continue to trade while complying with social distancing and without risking the health of their customers or staff.
Online sales have seen a boost, as housebound shoppers still look to spend some cash, especially on practical items. However, with many businesses taking a gigantic financial hit due to necessary closures, people may stop spending for fear of having no job to go to once the pandemic is over.
What is the Advice for Retailers on Dealing With the Coronavirus Crisis?
Thankfully, the government has taken steps to help businesses steer their way through the choppy waters of the next few months. These include:
- The Job Retention Scheme - Government will cover up to 80% of employees’ wages, backdated to 1st March. This will be for a minimum of three months and up to £2,500 per month per employee kept on throughout the coronavirus crisis.
- 100% Business Rates Holiday - There will be a 100% Business Rates holiday of 12 months for all retailers, no matter what size.
- Business Loans for Companies - The government will offer loans to businesses and, from Monday 23rd March, these are interest free for a year.
- Self Assessment Tax Payment Deferral - Payments due to HMRC in July will be deferred to January 2021.
- VAT Payment Deferral - The next VAT payments have been deferred to June.
- More Cash Grants - Depending on where you are in the UK, you may benefit from a cash grant.
If you want to know more about any of these measures and how you can apply for them, contact HMRC or visit gov.uk. The Chancellor is likely to announce more measures in the coming weeks as the situation develops. These may include delays on National Insurance payments and even relief for rent and utilities too. However, we will have to keep an eye on the news for details of these steps.
For access to the Job Retention Scheme funds, you have to change the status of affected employees to ‘furloughed workers’ before informing of the change. You can then contact HMRC through the online portal, giving the details of the adjustments.
We’ll keep you updated on measures that affect retailers here at The Retail Factory, along with any other advice we can pass on.