The marketing and advertising industry has joined calls for greater clarity for businesses hit by the second Covid-19 national lockdown, due to come into force on Bonfire Night, November 5, demanding to know the Government’s “direction of travel”.
The four-week lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday night, has already been branded “a nightmare before Christmas” by the British Retail Consortium.
Non-essential retailers, restaurants, pubs, and gyms will close for four weeks, while takeaways and non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect. Supermarkets, DIY shops, garden centres and other retailers providing “essential goods and services” can remain open.
After December 2, the restrictions are currently set to ease, with regions then going back into their tier systems.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Retail faces a nightmare before Christmas as the Government proposes to close thousands of retail premises under this new national lockdown, denying customers access to many of their favourite shops and brands.
“It will cause untold damage to the high street in the run up to Christmas, cost countless jobs, and permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy, with only a minimal effect on the transmission of the virus.”
Others have slammed the last-minute decision to extend the furlough scheme, as many firms will have already made thousands of staff redundant.
And TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said families were being forced to face a “grim winter” because the Government did not act sooner. “The extension of the furlough scheme is long overdue and necessary, but ministers must do more to protect jobs and prevent poverty. Furlough pay must never fall below the national minimum wage.”
The Advertising Association said the lockdown U-turn comes at the most critical point in the biggest quarter of the year for advertisers, agencies, media owners and tech companies and at a time when the industry has already downgraded its forecasts for Q4 2020 and for 2021.
AA chief executive Stephen Woodford added: “This latest development will have an adverse impact on the vital Christmas trading period and our industry must rapidly adapt and flex once again to protect businesses, jobs and the wider economy.
“The sooner the lockdown can be reasonably lifted, the better and, in the meantime, business need more clarity in order to plan.
“We urge the Government to set out the clearest possible direction of travel over the coming months in order for jobs to be protected and for the economy to function as best it can whilst limits are placed on it due to the public health challenges we all face.
“To support this planning, we need Government to rapidly invest in the professional skills needed across our industry, to back our industry’s ability to power economic growth through an advertising tax credit, and to ensure we have a trade deal with the EU in the short time that remains in the Brexit negotiations.
“We also need Government to recognise that any further interventions on our industry, such as the consultation on HFSS [junk food] advertising, must be based purely on evidence and avoid any wanton economic damage.”
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