What does “Plan B” mean for the retail sector?


Legendary Republic of Ireland and Leeds United midfielder Michael “Johnny” Giles once joked that “great teams always have a plan B. Look at Barcelona. Their plan B is to get away with it.” stick to plan A.

Well, it’s obvious that despite some political friction, the government implemented its own plan B tonight in an attempt to limit the spread of the Omicron variant. It may not be a big departure from “plan A”, but the key elements of greater work from home where possible and mandatory face masks in most public places will have an impact immediately on UK retailers.

We have already seen a reduction in attendance following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday evening and as data emerges on the transmissibility of the new variant. This will only accelerate as we are now within the ’10 day’ window where any new confirmed cases should be isolated over the Christmas period.

Weakened retailers, desperate for a strong Christmas trading period, now face the potential for even more failures in the new year. This situation is compounded by other supply chain issues – something we reported in our FRP Retail & Hospitality Pulse report in November. Indeed, the importance of the last full shopping weekend before Christmas really cannot be underestimated, with city workers now unlikely to return to the office before the New Year.

It’s an impact that will be felt across the industry, with repercussions for owners and suppliers alike, and it’s a cruel twist for an industry that seemed to be regaining momentum after the unprecedented challenges of the past two years. And at the risk of endless sports quotes, it reminded me of another sports legend – New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra – who once said “It’s like deja vu all over again .”

“The significance of the last full shopping weekend before Christmas really cannot be understated, with city workers now unlikely to return to their offices before the New Year.”


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