Dr. Kerstin Braun, President of Stenn Group, a global trade finance provider, comments on the ONS retail sales figures for March: “Retail shops were already suffering before the coronavirus as a result of changing consumer behaviour. Increasing numbers of people are turning away from the high street and shopping online, which offers greater convenience and ease. The Covid-19 pandemic has only escalated the decline of the high street and is likely to speed up these inevitable shifts, with high street footfall seeing its steepest decreases ever.
“Due to restrictions and reduced incomes people will be buying less, and further administration filings are inevitable. SMEs, which make up 35% of retail sales, will be hit the hardest and we know that recovery will not be easy. Lenders have been traditionally reluctant to provide loans to shops however rent support programmes, similar to those for furloughed staff, could help to stem the damage and control the effects.
“Fortunately, we will soon see a slow reopening and some return to normality. This will undoubtedly come with new social distancing behaviours that we have already been practising and feel like second nature to us now. Life may not go back to as it was before but even this will be a welcome change.”