Suffolk businesses face bleak Christmas trading as second lockdown starts
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Businesses in Ipswich town centre have been plunged into a second lockdown that is potentially much more financially damaging than the first according to the organisation that represents the area’s commercial heart.
Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said stores were facing huge problems because they had ordered, and paid for, Christmas stock which they would now struggle to sell – and if the lockdown was lifted as planned on December 2 it would give them only two and a half weeks to make the vital sales they needed in the festive season.
He said: “This has been devastating. There is so much uncertainty about what can and can’t open and there’s a very confusing picture. But it is the timing that is so difficult for many businesses who could be stuck with a great deal of stock that they cannot sell.”
Some would be offering delivery and click-and-collect services – but that would not make up for loss of normal retail business.
The last few days had brought more business as people stocked up, but it would not make up for the loss of sales during the next few weeks.
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At the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce spokesman Paul Simon said businesses were pleased about the level of government support offered – and the move had not come as a surprise.
But there needed to be a long-term plan for society to cope with Covid-19. He said: “We cannot carry on like this indefinitely. The negative implications of intermittent lockdowns is now a serious headwind as businesses start thinking about their longer-term investment and job creation decisions.
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“The Government must – and quickly – start establishing some longer-term scenario planning, based on the rollout of possible vaccines and a test and trace system that is swift and accurate. Businesses have done their bit and they now expect more than make do and patch up solutions from national policy makers.”
Some of the largest employers have continued to have many staff working from home over the last few months even after the initial lockdown was eased.
And Public Health England urged everyone to observe the lockdown rules. Dr David Edwards, Consultant in Health Protection at PHE East, said: “We know that entering another phase of lockdown is not easy for people and we thank our communities in the East of England for all their efforts so far, however, in order to slow down and prevent transmission of this virus as best as we can, the stricter restrictions are needed at this time.
“Like everywhere else in England, here in the East we have seen cases rising rapidly over the past few weeks, with a lot of areas now tipping over 100 cases per 100,000 people, especially in the more densely populated areas. We want to reverse this trend and see our case numbers dropping.
“We know it is challenging but sticking to the advice and playing our part is the best way to fight this virus; together, working towards preventing transmission and protecting those around us.”