Coes boss pleads for retailers hit by pre-Christmas lockdown to get more support

Coes flagship Ipswich store on Norwich Road. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Coes flagship Ipswich store on Norwich Road. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

The boss of Ipswich department store Coes has issued a plea for the government to do more to help businesses hit by the second Covid-19 lockdown.

William Coe, managing director of Coes department store Picture: DAVID GARRAD

William Coe, managing director of Coes department store Picture: DAVID GARRAD - Credit: David Garrad

William Coe, managing director of the flagship store in Norwich Road, said the support currently on offer is “peanuts” - and warned of “carnage on the high street” if lockdown is extended past December 2.

He also voiced concern over the lack of a level playing field, with “non-essential” retailers forced to close completely until December 2, while other stores selling the same products can stay open.

“Some retailers can open, because they have areas which are essential, where other retailers who sell exactly the same product can’t.

“Clearly that’s unfair, and the support isn’t there,” he said.”

MORE: Coes named as one of UK’s 100 most inspiring independent stores

His comments come amid widespread concern over national homeware stores like B&M and The Range staying open, while “non-essential” competitors must stay closed.

As well as its Ipswich store, Coes also has branches in Felixstowe and Maldon, which have also had to close.

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Mr Coe said, while he welcomed the extension of furlough, it did not go far enough.

He added: “Grants of up to £3,000 depending on the size of premises are peanuts, when you are talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds of trade lost for our Ipswich store alone.”

Although it is possible for businesses to apply for government loans, Mr Coe said many retailers were already loaded up with debt and would be reluctant to borrow more.

He also warned: “If we can’t open at the start of December, then there will be carnage on the high street. So many businesses make their money in the eight weeks before Christmas, and we have already lost half of them.”

MORE: Bookshop owner frustrated at closure while Poundland can sell booksHowever, he said he had confidence lockdown would end then as planned, because the government realised the effect extending the shutdown would have on the economy.

Mr Coe said he fully appreciated the whole situation was very difficult for the government, but called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to give more support to the businesses which have had to close.

He suggested all businesses which have had to close down during the current lockdown should not have to pay business rates next year. “I think that would be giving retail some hope.”

Although the Coes stores are currently closed, it is possible to shop online via the Coes website.

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