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Trust Issues: It’s the most challenging time of the year

Guest Comment: Chris Brook-Carter, CEO, retailTRUST Traditionally, Christmas is such a magical time for retail. It’s not called the Golden Quarter for nothing. The sight of… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Trust Issues: It’s the most challenging time of the year

Guest Comment: Chris Brook-Carter, CEO, retailTRUST

Traditionally, Christmas is such a magical time for retail. It’s not called the Golden Quarter for nothing. The sight of families on day trips into town to buy presents, delighting in the splendour of high streets up and down the country, decked with Christmas lights and sparkling store windows, is enough to melt even the hardest heart.

In London, Selfridge’s, Bond Street, Liberty, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason are as twinkly and Instagram-friendly as ever, beautifully camouflaging the challenges that lie across the sector. Sadly, this isn’t indicative of the rest of British retail. Many non-essential stores are limping back from yet another lockdown. London has been plunged back into Tier 3 presenting more uncertainty for the High Street. And, with a telling lack of Christmas stock and cheer in many stores on Oxford Street, it really is difficult to see how this can be the season to be even a tiny bit jolly.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say, 2020 is our very own ‘annus horribilus’. From 1 January to 1 December, 170,914 British retail jobs were lost and 15,822 stores closed. This doesn’t include the potential fallout from the collapse of Debenhams and Arcadia, which could result in another 25,000 redundancies. Thankfully, a number of potential buyers are swarming around Arcadia including ABF, Boohoo, Marks & Spencer, Next and River Island, and Authentic Brands and Frasers Group have declared an interest in both Arcadia and Debenhams. We have everything crossed for good news and for job losses to be kept to an absolute minimum. Our retail colleagues are under enough pressure thanks to extended Christmas opening hours to make up for lockdown lost revenue, the increase in verbal and violent assaults over the last few months in stores and the unprecedented rush of online sales being felt in distribution centres.

Over the 11 months to November end, retailTRUST has experienced a 229% increase in people accessing our digital wellbeing support and resources, from 179,984 to 591,731 page views, and we have run over 5,000 counselling sessions. Colleagues have also been hit hard financially. We have issued nearly £1 million in non-repayable grants this year (125% increased on 2019) and we’re expecting record requests for help in January, when people are traditionally the hardest hit.

As Christmas nears and the year comes to a close, I have three important things to say:

1       Thank you. To everyone working on the frontline of British retail who has kept the nation fed and sane this year. You are amazing.

2       We are here to help everyone working in retail so please encourage colleagues and employees to get in touch with retailTRUST if they need our support. Our free and confidential helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0808 801 0808 or by emailing helpline@retailtrust.org.uk

3       Please do your bit to say thank you to our keyworkers by getting involved in retail’s biggest secret Santa at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/retailsbiggestsecretsanta

From all at retailTRUST, I wish you a very merry Christmas and here’s to a less eventful New Year.

 

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