Should more businesses be shutting up shop in the 'spirit of lockdown'?

There have now been more than 50,000 deaths in the UK linked to coronavirus. Picture: Denise Bradley

There have now been more than 50,000 deaths in the UK linked to coronavirus. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

This lockdown does not feel as strict as the first - and yet the pandemic has never been more deadly. 

But unlike March many businesses were ready for restrictions and have pivoted to work in a Covid-safe way. 

Moreover, shops which have been allowed to open as essential retailers are using the chance to keep their doors open to continue selling non-essential items. 

However the news that John Lewis has suspended its click and collect service to comply with the "spirit of lockdown" begs the question: should businesses open because they can, or is the short term hit to the bottom line worth it for the long term gain of solidarity with customers? 

The key is for business leaders to look at the current situation with a lens from a future perspective, said Don Williams, a partner in the retail sector for KPMG. 


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"What managers need to be thinking is: 'Will I look back at this and think we managed that in the right way?' There is definitely a moral question businesses will be asking themselves about this lockdown and I think those questions will continue retrospectively. 

"We saw it with the finger pointing around business rates - it grew to a clamour and ended with Tesco and then all the others giving them back in the first pandemic. I think although there will be pressure around the moral questions it won't actually be enough to change consumer behaviours. 

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"People aren't going to stop shopping at a chain that sold non-essentials during the pandemic because they will still be convenient when we can go into shops." 

Professor Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research based in Norwich, added: "On a personal level I don't see anything wrong with essential retailers also selling non-essential items.

"In a pandemic when shops have been closed for months on end everything becomes essential - I don't want to wait until the summer to have to buy some hangers.

"So I either head to my local DIY shop to buy them or I buy them online and have them delivered - but I'd rather buy them from a local shop." 

For some businesses - such as small and independents - not opening is not an option if it means putting food on their table.

Likewise, garden centres which have come under scrutiny for opening have clearly been told they can remain open.  

Since January 1 Google searches on 'Why are garden centres allowed to open' have peaked to an all time high. 

"The law on garden centres is clear - they can open, and so they will. The difference with garden centres that we don't consider is that not only is it outdoors and tends to have more space, but the product of visiting a garden centre actually encourages us to stay home and stay outside in the long term, which is what the government wants," he said. 

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