Industry bodies are calling on the government to reconsider ‘non-essential’ retail.

The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) is calling for government intervention over the types of ‘non-essential’ retail still taking place during England’s second lockdown.

Bira believes that some retailers – those with large mixed retail spaces – have been given an unfair advantage as they continue to open while many Bira members and other independents are forced to close for a month.

The Government released further clarification over terms of trade on Friday, however Bira does not believe it goes far enough. 

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO, said, “We have been pushing for clarity and we are pleased to see some clearer guidance on the types of essential shop and the products available. However, we already have concerns that large stores are flouting the rules and would question the percentage of ‘essential’ items sold through the likes of B&M and The Original Factory Shop.”

He added, “We have had lots of questions and complaints form members about the actions of other retailers and the unfairness of the regulations. I have raised all these issues with the Business Minister and BEIS since Monday and these guidelines seem to reflect some of the concerns we raised.”

GCA Logo

Also raising concerns are the Greeting Card Association (GCA) who have contacted the Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma and under-secretary Paul Scully to request that greeting cards be considered an essential product. The letter argues that the card industry is being unfairly penalised by the current closures and that greeting cards are essential because they provide a meaningful way for people to communicate when they are not able to meet in person.

In the letter, GCA CEO Amanda Fergusson states, “From the small independently-owned card shop in your local community to Card Factory, our largest specialist which employs up to 15,000 people, these are all retailers who are helping to spread joy, provide comfort and reinforce relationships by their selection of cards. We, as an industry, urge you to make this a happy Christmas and allow greeting card shops to reopen without delay so that the nation can keep in touch.”

The GCA is calling on all members to contact their local MPs and press to share the letter and try and convince the government to change the policy.

Bira will be continuing to liaise with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for the best deal for its members and the wider independent retail sector.

Read the latest government guidance here

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