The appalling cost of a year of draconian Covid restrictions and lockdowns is laid bare today.
On the eve of the anniversary of Boris Johnson’s original ‘stay at home’ order, in-depth analysis by the Mail shows the sheer extent of the economic, social, educational and healthcare damage.
Pandemic measures are costing £500million a day in lost output, while adding £1billion a day to the national debt. And a feared EU blockade on vaccines could derail the phased plan to end the lockdown.
Pandemic measures are costing £500million a day in lost output, while adding £1billion a day to the national debt
Brussels commissioner Mairead McGuinness yesterday confirmed such a ban would be ‘on the table’ at an EU summit on Thursday. Experts say a total embargo could set back the UK vaccination programme by two months.
As MPs, business leaders and campaigners last night urged Mr Johnson to rule out using lockdowns in any future health crisis:
- A record 844,285 Covid jabs were administered on Saturday;
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace claimed a vaccine export ban would damage the EU’s international reputation;
- Amid signs of a third wave of the virus in Europe, he warned it was premature to book foreign holidays;
- The NHS announced trials of tests to detect dangerous mutations of the virus;
- A government scientist said social distancing should stay until everyone had been vaccinated;
- More than half of Germans and almost two thirds of the French say they will not take the AstraZeneca jab amid scare stories about its efficiency;
- The daily coronavirus death toll rose by 33 yesterday, taking the weekly average down by more than a third.
Today’s lockdown audit illustrates the crippling impact that 12 months of curbs have had on swathes of the economy, with pubs and restaurants losing an estimated £1.7billion a week, and some 15,000 shops expected to never reopen.
Pubs and restaurants are losing an estimated £1.7billion a week, and some 15,000 shops are expected to never reopen
The grim Covid death toll, which yesterday hit 126,155, is well known. But today’s analysis also reveals the dire impact of the past year on the nation’s health. The NHS waiting list has soared to a record high of nearly 4.6million, with 300,000 waiting more than a year for treatment.
On cancer, 44,000 fewer patients started treatment last year and there were 4.4million fewer life-saving diagnostic tests. An extra 6,000 people died of heart disease and stroke. Mental health services saw a 27,000 rise in individuals seeking support, while child eating disorders doubled.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the current, and third, lockdown had to be the last.
‘We must plan and make changes now to avoid this ever happening again,’ he said. ‘The cost has been far too high.
A feared EU blockade on vaccines could derail the phased plan to end the lockdown
‘The damage to the economy has been, and continues to be, enormous. But there have also been huge consequences for people’s health and mental health. We cannot allow ourselves to get caught out like this again.’
A fellow Conservative, Sir Charles Walker, said ministers should have adopted a different approach to shielding the vulnerable.
Sir Charles, vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee for backbench Tories, said: ‘We cannot afford to let it happen again – the first lockdown should have been the last. We have had a situation where people have not wanted to ask the question about the wider impact because they know they would not like the answer. But whether you look at the economy, mental health or education, the damage has been massive and unsustainable.’
Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey also urged the PM to accelerate the exit from lockdown to limit further damage.
Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: ‘It is crucial that this lockdown is the last one.
‘Businesses cannot afford to keep going through a process of opening and then closing after only a few weeks or months.
Government sources pointed out that the Prime Minister had designed a ‘cautious’ route out of lockdown in the hope it would be ‘irreversible’
‘The full impact of this lockdown will not be known until the summer, but we can be sure that many will have lost their jobs, which is why the Prime Minister must consign lockdowns to history.’
Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: ‘Our children have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. They have made so many sacrifices – adapting to home-learning, missing friends and relatives, not being able to do so many of the things children love to do. Their lives have been disrupted and many have struggled.’
Government sources pointed out that the Prime Minister had designed a ‘cautious’ route out of lockdown in the hope it would be ‘irreversible’.
Mr Wallace said yesterday: ‘None of us want to have lots of draconian measures but this is an unprecedented global pandemic which has cost tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of lives around the world.’
The lethal fallout: A year of Covid pandemic curbs will leave ‘lasting scars’ on the NHS… as these patients reveal the adverse effect lockdowns had on them
By Shaun Wooller, Xantha Leatham and Kamal Sultan for the Daily Mail
Charmayne Oakey has suffered excruciating pain for more than a year after knee replacement surgery was delayed
An unprecedented audit of the effect of the pandemic has exposed the devastating impact on non-Covid care.
Almost a year on from the day we first locked down, analysis by a string of charities reveals the toll on patients with cancer, heart disease, arthritis and dementia.
NHS bosses last night admitted the disruption is ‘eye-wateringly clear’ and will leave ‘lasting scars’.
Thousands of preventable deaths have already occurred, with many more likely to follow, and others will be left disabled or in crippling pain as a result of the past year.
Hospitals cancelled swathes of ‘non-urgent’ operations to focus on coronavirus, while GPs switched to phone and video consultations. Screening programmes for deadly diseases such as breast cancer were put on hold.
In addition, many ill people delayed seeking help after ministers told the public to stay at home to protect the NHS.
The Mail’s audit of the Covid consequences paints a grim picture, with England recording the largest annual fall in life expectancy since the Second World War.
Waiting lists have already climbed to record highs – and are expected to get worse as more people come forward after the current lockdown ends.
Patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks for treatment after an NHS referral – but more than 300,000 have been waiting for over a year.
Health chiefs warn the backlog will take years to clear, with think-tanks predicting a decade of disruption after a crisis that has undone years of progress.
Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: ‘The job facing surgeons and the teams they work with is huge. It will take years rather than months to catch up.’
The widow of a man who died last year after his cancer treatment was delayed due to the pandemic believes his life was unfairly cut short. Malachy Watkins, 73, was first diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2018 and after six weeks of chemotherapy doctors told him the tumour had shrunk. After a check-up last February, he found out the tumour was growing again but his treatment was postponed for three months
The number of face-to-face GP consultations fell by almost 80million. Millions also missed out on cancer checks, while tens of thousands missed out on dementia care. Many others missed heart operations, diabetes checks, rehabilitation for asthma and lung disease and stroke treatment – leaving many with disabilities that could have been avoided.
Measures intended to combat coronavirus have also played havoc with the nation’s mental health, with friends and families forced apart and many workers left in limbo – or worse.
The number of adults suffering depression doubled during lockdown, as did the number of urgent referrals for children with eating disorders. In addition, the number of dental checks was cut in half.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the impact of the pandemic on non-Covid patients has been ‘profound’.
She added: ‘Some have stayed away from the NHS, but it has been more common for people to try to access care but find it is not available.
‘The result for many is long waits in pain and discomfort, prolonged uncertainty and anxiety, worse outcomes from operations when they are eventually performed, and in some cases people dying from what would otherwise have been treatable illness.’
Patients needing ‘non-urgent’ hip and knee replacements have consistently seen some of the longest waits. Tracey Loftis of the charity Versus Arthritis said: ‘Thousands of people are enduring long waits with no end date in sight. We have heard from people who have lost jobs, are unable to care for relatives and are seeking help for depression because of the debilitating pain they are in.’
Danny Mortimer – chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations – said: ‘The disruption of the pandemic is eye-wateringly clear and it will take many years before the system can return to any sense of normality. The pandemic will leave lasting scars on the NHS after the immediate threat subsides.’
An NHS spokesman said: ‘Since the beginning of the pandemic the NHS has urged people to come forward if they’re concerned for their health and has offered care to everyone who needs it.’
I was lucky my cancer was found
Emma Gibson was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer last October after her initial screening was postponed for five months
Emma Gibson was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer last October after her initial screening was postponed for five months.
The 25-year-old, who works in marketing, believes she could have had a routine procedure to remove pre-cancerous cells if her March appointment had not been moved due to the pandemic.
She was left frustrated by the lack of urgency from doctors when she tried to find out when her screening would be.
She said: ‘I called three times to try to find out when my smear test would happen but each time I was told to call back again in a couple of months.’
Miss Gibson, of Wigan, finally had a smear test at her GP surgery in August and had a procedure called Lletz – large loop excision of the transformation zone – a month later to remove abnormal cells.
She was called to the Thomas Linacre Centre in Wigan for more testing and was told she had stage 1 cervical cancer.
‘It was a big shock. I never thought that at 25 I would hear that I have cancer,’ Miss Gibson said. ‘We then went into the second lockdown and it was very scary because I heard that hospitals were cancelling appointments.’
In November she had another Lletz procedure and later that month heard she was cancer free. She said: ‘I am one of the lucky ones because there are so many people who have missed out on tests and surgery because of the pandemic.’
Daily pain is off the scale
Charmayne Oakey has suffered excruciating pain for more than a year after knee replacement surgery was delayed.
The grandmother from Oxfordshire, who had severe osteoarthritis in her knee, was told in February that she could have the procedure at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford within a few months.
But her appointments were changed to telephone consultations at the start of lockdown and she was told it was no longer possible to set a date for her surgery due to the pandemic.
After eight more months of pain and immobility, Mrs Oakey was warned that she might have to wait another year for her knee replacement surgery because of the backlog in the NHS.
She said: ‘It is affecting every aspect of my ability and it is putting my life on hold. The pain is off the scale and there is no date in sight.
‘I have severe osteoarthritis in my knee, it’s bone on bone and there’s no cartilage there.
‘It’s absolutely heart-wrenching and I have no idea where I stand.’
She has been asked to call back when the current lockdown ends to find out when she can have the procedure.
‘I understand Covid is a killer but surely they can keep a hospital in a safe area open so important surgeries can go ahead,’ Mrs Oakey said.
‘I live in pain every day and there are times when it really gets to me.
‘I cannot play with any of my grandchildren and it drains me mentally, not being able to do things that I normally could.’
‘Some days I think I can’t go on. I’ve had to just sit down in the supermarket and cry.’
Mrs Oakey, 47, was made redundant last October and she is worried she may not get another job because of her current condition.
She said: ‘I’m out of work, quite stressed out about money… How do I tell a prospective employer I am going to need surgery and time off to recover, but I have no idea when?’
Husband’s life was cut short
The widow of a man who died last year after his cancer treatment was delayed due to the pandemic believes his life was unfairly cut short.
Malachy Watkins, 73, was first diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2018 and after six weeks of chemotherapy doctors told him the tumour had shrunk.
After a check-up last February, he found out the tumour was growing again but his treatment was postponed for three months.
The grandfather from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, started chemotherapy and immunotherapy at Lister Hospital in the town in May but died on September 25.
He began to have heart problems as a result of the treatment and fluid had built up in his lungs so doctors said it had to stop.
Sheila Watkins, 72, his wife of 53 years, said: ‘I feel angry and it’s so wrong that people are being forced to wait for treatment. We could have had longer together if his treatment started earlier and the quality of his life may have been better.
‘His life was cut short, but the hospital is not going to admit that. They left us in limbo.’
Mr and Mrs Watkins met as teenagers and got married in 1967. Their son Craig, 43, said: ‘If the treatment was started then [last February] I think he would still be with us now.’ Both their children were not allowed to see their father until Mr Watkins’s final moments.
Nick Carver, of the NHS trust which runs Lister Hospital, said: ‘We offer sincere condolences to Mr Watkins’s loved ones at this incredibly sad time.’
The crushing price of lockdown
The number of patients referred to cancer specialists and starting treatment has nose-dived.
Experts fear many have delayed care or been unable to access it, and will be diagnosed when their tumours are too advanced to cure.
Cancer Research UK estimates three million fewer people than normal had a cancer screening from March to September as programmes were ‘effectively paused’.
Almost 44,000 fewer started treatment for the disease in the UK from April 2020 to January 2021 compared with the same period a year earlier.
There were 4.4 million fewer diagnostic tests in England between March and January and 400,000 fewer urgent suspected cancer referrals.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘For the first time in decades, this country is faced with the prospect of cancer survival going backwards.’
Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said the pandemic has had an ‘enormous impact’ with screening, tests and treatment delayed as a ‘direct result’.
Prostate Cancer UK said 8,600 fewer men started treatment from April to January. Angela Culhane, the charity’s chief executive, said: ‘Many more men could be diagnosed when it is too late for them to be cured.’
Heart attacks and strokes
Deaths caused by heart attacks and strokes rocketed during the lockdown as operations were cancelled and care was delayed.
There have been more than 6,000 more deaths than usual from heart diseases and strokes during the pandemic and experts warn the numbers could be ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ as the true toll of lockdown may not be known for years.
At least 12,000 fewer heart operations than expected took place in England in the year to November 2020, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) says, while prescriptions for statins and blood thinners fell by 25 per cent. Other treatments, such as fitting stents, have been impacted too, with 100,000 fewer last year than in 2019.
The Institute for Public Policy Research found 23,000 cases of heart failure and up to 90,000 coronary heart disease cases have been missed.The institute estimates the disruption will lead to an extra 12,000 avoidable heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, said: ‘We’re now left with a ticking timebomb of unmet early detection and treatment.’
Bereavement, forced separation from loved ones and financial woes have all hit the nation’s mental health.
The number of adults suffering with depression doubled during lockdown, with one in five affected last summer. And emergency referrals to NHS mental health services hit record highs in June and July.
One in six children and teenagers are now thought to have a mental health disorder, up from one in nine three years ago. And the number of urgent referrals for children with eating disorders doubled last year.
There were almost 1.4million patients in contact with NHS mental health services in December last year – an increase of 27,000 from a year earlier.
Dr Trudi Seneviratne, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: ‘Social isolation, loneliness, stress and anxiety, domestic abuse, bereavement, financial difficulties, unemployment and Covid-19 infection are all factors.’
Mental health charity Sane said that at some points during the pandemic almost a third of its callers were suicidal.
The numbers accessing non-Covid care plummeted and waiting lists hit a record high as the NHS reorganised to focus on coronavirus.
Many struggled to see their GP in person or saw operations cancelled. Others delayed seeking care out of fear of catching the virus or after hearing ministers repeatedly tell them to ‘stay at home to protect the NHS’.
Experts fear thousands may have died or suffered long-term harm as a result and warn the backlog will take years to clear.
There were 32million fewer GP appointments in 2020 than in 2019, with 79.4million fewer in-person consultations. Attendances at A&E fell from 25.64million to 18.77million, with data suggesting even those with life-threatening conditions stayed away.
Family doctors made 5.9million fewer referrals for elective treatment last year – a fall of a third. Planned operations fell by 56 per cent from March to May compared with the same period the previous year. Waiting lists climbed to a high of 4.59million, this is forecast to surge to ten million as lockdown eases.
Coronavirus has dealt a cruel blow to dementia patients and those waiting for a diagnosis.
Those living with the disease rely on regular contact with loved ones to put them at ease but over the last year have often been separated by lockdown laws.
Dementia diagnosis rates have also fallen with around 43,000 people potentially having missed out on a diagnosis over the past year, denying them access to specialist care and treatments.
The rate in England has fallen from 67 per cent before the pandemic to just 61 per cent now.
Alzheimer’s charities also say GP dementia assessments fell by 13,000 a month during the pandemic, while referrals to memory clinics fell by 1,000 a month.
Meanwhile researchers have discovered an increase in the use of antipsychotic medication among those with memory loss. Increased use of the drugs, which can have serious side-effects, suggests more people are suffering distress.
One in four adults who have died from coronavirus had dementia.
But there has also been an increase in non-Covid related deaths among dementia patients.
Deaths in private homes from dementia and Alzheimer’s are 75 per cent higher in England than the five-year average.
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘People affected by dementia have been hit especially hard by Covid-19 and the drop in the diagnosis and referral rates means the pandemic will continue to have knock-on effects for years to come.
The £521m-a-DAY hit to our economy: That’s the cost of lockdown to British businesses, with one in four firms closed and over 6m workers put on furlough
By Hugo Duncan and Mark Shapland for the Daily Mail
Each day of lockdown is costing the economy more than £500million, according to research for the Daily Mail.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that output is £521million a day lower than it was before the pandemic.
One in four businesses remains closed and six million workers are on furlough. As well as a collapse in output, the Government is borrowing almost £1billion a day to pay for measures including the furlough scheme and tax breaks for struggling businesses.
MPs, business leaders and economists said the success of the vaccine programme meant Covid restrictions should be lifted more quickly.
Each day of lockdown is costing the economy more than £500million, according to research for the Daily Mail. Restaurants are now closed until after Easter (file photo)
‘Of course we should open, we’ve been locked down for months,’ said Lord Rose, chairman of Ocado and former chief executive of Marks & Spencer. ‘The economy is going to hell in a handcart. We’ve spent billions on furlough and on other schemes. How are we going to pay it back?
‘Everything has ground to a halt. Companies have spent millions getting ready for this and working out social distancing.
‘The Government is terrified of its own shadow. It’s time to move on.’
Marketing guru Sir Martin Sorrell, who leads advertising group S4 Capital, said: ‘The economy could open up earlier but on a prudent, phased basis, given we’ve made such good progress through being careful and getting vaccinated. We don’t want a lockdown return as we’ve seen in Italy or Germany.’
The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that output is £521million a day lower than it was before the pandemic
The economy contracted by 9.9 per cent last year – the biggest reverse since the Great Frost of 1709.
With the country back in lockdown, output is expected to contract by another 4 per cent in the first three months of this year.
Unemployment is forecast to hit 6.5 per cent by Christmas – leaving 2.2million out of work, 900,000 more than at the end of 2019.
The total bill for dealing with Covid is expected to hit £407billion as the cost of furlough, higher benefits payments and grants for companies and the self-employed mount.
The collapse in economic activity has also hit tax receipts as incomes, profits, spending and investment dwindle. The Government is on course to borrow a record £355billion in 2020-21 and another £235billion in 2021-22 to cover the cost of higher spending and lower taxes.
This will push UK debt to a peak of 109.7 per cent of national income – the highest level since the aftermath of the Second World War.
But the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, predicts Britain will bounce back like a ‘coiled spring’ once lockdown ends.
Writing in the Mail last month, he said that by the end of June households will have amassed an ‘accidental savings’ war chest of £250billion. ‘Having been bottled in for a year, most people are desperate to get their lives, including their social lives, back,’ he said.
But the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, predicts Britain will bounce back like a ‘coiled spring’ once lockdown ends
Kay Neufeld, head of forecasting at the CEBR, said: ‘One year on, Covid-19 continues to cost the UK economy £521million per day.
‘The majority of these costs are concentrated in a number of sectors including hospitality, entertainment, retail and education. Any economic recovery is dependent on getting the virus under control.
‘If the vaccination campaign continues at the current pace and we stay on top of any new variants, we will be able to safely open up the economy, raising output by as much as £512million per day.’
Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘By promising to ease the lockdown on the basis of ‘data not dates’ and then insisting that the dates cannot be brought forward, Boris Johnson has created a one-way ratchet that will become unsustainable as the weeks drag on.
‘Every extra day of lockdown produces diminishing returns at exponential cost. We should not be tied to obsolete models. If the situation continues to improve between now and Easter, there will be a strong case for bringing the roadmap forward by four weeks.’
Conservative MP Steve Baker said: ‘Ideally we would have hospitality open at Easter.’
Pubs and restaurants’ devastating £86bn hole
By Tom Witherow and Archie Mitchell for The Daily Mail
The pandemic was like ‘an asteroid that hit the earth’ for the hospitality industry with pubs and restaurants missing out on £86 billion – or £1.7billion per week – of sales.
Chains were forced to cull thousands of outlets and hundreds of thousands of staff with a total of 11,900 licensed premises shutting their doors since December 2019 and 660,000 jobs disappearing.
Those that have survived can open outdoor areas from April 12 but must wait until May 17 before doing so indoors.
The pandemic was like ‘an asteroid that hit the earth’ for the hospitality industry with pubs and restaurants missing out on £86 billion – or £1.7billion per week – of sales. Pictured: The Moon Under Water Pub in London remains closed due to the lockdown
Less than a fifth of restaurant chains have outdoor seating, meaning many will be unable to reopen, while pubs have said that just 17 per cent of pubs’ capacity will open outdoors next month.
The industry has been given a glimmer of hope as economists predict customer will unleash £180billion of cash saved in lockdown in a hoped-for repeat of the ‘Roaring 20s’.
Bookings have also boomed with some restaurant chains reporting 1,000 bookings ahead of the reopening in April – despite the fact premises will not be restrictions-free until June 21.
We’ve lost £90,000
Landlords Phil and Leanne Docherty’s pub has lost £90,000 in the pandemic.
The couple, who have owned the Green Man in Ropsley, Lincolnshire, for five years, said losses started to mount in the autumn as they were faced with mammoth National Insurance (NI) and pension bills.
Mr Docherty, 40, said: ‘The initial Government support was encouraging. But as we got into autumn there was more onus on the employer. We had a £2,000 grant in March but our NI bill alone cost £3,500 a month.’
Landlords Phil and Leanne Docherty’s pub has lost £90,000 in the pandemic
Mrs Docherty, 39, said next month’s partial reopening brings huge uncertainty as they expect many of their elderly customers are unlikely to return until the summer.
She said: ‘It’s hard to know what the uptake will be with the public when they know they have to be sat outside.’
Bosses are demanding ministers use the vaccine rollout success to allow pubs, bars and restaurants to reopen indoors alongside ‘non-essential’ shops on April 12.
Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoon, which has 875 pubs, said yesterday: ‘The future of the industry, and the UK economy, depends on a consistent set of sensible policies, and the ending of lockdowns and tier systems, which have created economic and social mayhem and colossal debts, with no apparent health benefits.’
A string of household names have been forced to close outlets in the pandemic. Frankie & Benny’s shut 120 restaurants and Pizza Express 67.
Wetherpoon’s chairman Tim Martin (above) said the future of the industry depended on a ‘consistent set of sensible policies’
Restaurant chain Carluccio’s was one of the first chains to collapse into administration, in March last year, before it was rescued, though it was forced to shed 1,000 jobs to survive.
Mark Jones, its chief executive at the time, told the BBC yesterday: ‘This [the pandemic] was the restaurant industry’s asteroid that hit the earth and sped up the evolution of the high street.
‘If you went into the pandemic in a weakened position without cash reserves it was going to be very difficult to survive.’
15,000 shops gone for ever
By Tom Witherow for The Daily Mail
More than 15,000 shops have shut for good in the last year as rolling lockdowns devastated high streets.
Businesses were left with zero revenue overnight and have now been shut for close to seven months of the last year, irreversibly changing the make-up of town and city centres.
The enforced closures have felled some of the high street’s best known names including Topshop, Laura Ashley and Debenhams.
Shops missed out on £22billion of sales since March 23 last year, forcing them to lay off 185,447 shop floor staff.
The enforced closures have felled some of the high street’s best known names including Topshop, Laura Ashley and Debenhams
Bosses also shut 15,187 stores permanently, equivalent to 42 per day, according to the figures from the Centre for Retail Research.
The figures include 23,055 staff who have lost their jobs in 2021 in the most recent lockdown, and 1,369 stores which have closed their doors.
Yesterday business leaders demanded the Prime Minister accelerate the reopening plans and ‘consign lockdowns to history’.
It comes after a PwC report found that ‘the real impact of the pandemic is yet to be felt’ on the high street as thousands of businesses struggle.
We sold our fashion chain after 39 years
Steve Cochrane, the founder of one of the North East’s best-known independent fashion chains, has been forced to sell his business after 39 years because of lockdown.
The 61-year-old founded Psyche in Middlesbrough in 1982, lovingly building the business to two large stores and two websites.
But repeated lockdowns forced him to take the ‘heartbreaking’ decision to sell the business to the company behind House of Fraser, saving jobs and allowing its stores and online shops to continue trading.
Steve Cochrane (pictured with wife Alex), the founder of one of the North East’s best-known independent fashion chains, has been forced to sell his business after 39 years because of lockdown
The father-of-three, who ran the business with the help of his wife Alex, 40, initially made deals with suppliers and landlords and took out Government-backed business interruption loans but this, he said, was just ‘debt to pay off debt’.
He put his hopes in a ‘make-or-break’ Christmas only to see the North East return to Tier Three restrictions in November, before the lockdown in December.
Women, who make up most of the shop floor workforce, and poorer communities that rely more on retail have been hit hardest.
The troubles on the high street have forced dozens of brands including Oasis, Cath Kidston and TM Lewin to go online-only, and this week Thorntons became the latest victim of lockdown as bosses announced the closure of all 61 directly managed stores, putting 603 jobs at risk.
The closures have helped to push vacancy rates to record highs of 13.7 per cent, raising fears the pandemic has created yet more ‘ghost towns’.
Tom Ironside, of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so. Any delays to the Prime Minister’s roadmap will undoubtedly result in more store closures and job losses.’
Julian Dunkerton, of Superdry, said: ‘We can see the end now, people miss shopping and I’m confident that people will be coming back to the high street once they’re allowed to.’
John Lewis has shut eight department stores, and is expected to close eight more before the end of lockdown, Argos shut 420 stand-alone shops and Carphone Warehouse shut 530 stores
Thousands of the shop closures have come from Britain’s best known businesses. John Lewis has shut eight department stores, and is expected to close eight more before the end of lockdown, Argos shut 420 stand-alone shops and Carphone Warehouse shut 530 stores.
Marks & Spencer and John Lewis are even in the process of converting part of their stores on London’s Oxford Street, the UK’s shopping capital, into offices because they can not justify the space.
Smaller towns have also been hit hard by the pandemic, as key tenants in shopping areas were forced to give up their keys. Topshop owner Arcadia and Debenhams went bust within 24 hours of each other leaving 600 large, hard-to-fill stores empty.
It is feared shoppers may no longer want to head into town now that their destination shops sit empty, permanently damaging the whole business ecosystem. Businesses on larger high streets and in shopping centres have suffered most, especially in major cities, where they rely on footfall from tourists and commuters to justify paying higher rents.
Lockdown has also rapidly accelerated shoppers’ move online, pushing the proportion of money spent on the web to a record 35 per cent in January, according to the Office for National Statistics.