The pandemic has caused major losses for businesses across the UK, particularly in the retail sector. While we have not yet seen further lockdowns, the threat of Omicron looms and could spell danger for companies already struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Research from Wholesale Clearance UK, which specialises in selling bankrupt and surplus stock, shows the areas of the country where the retail industry has been most affected, which could provide clues as to what will happen if Omicron continues to spread.
Through FOI requests, they were able to see how many retail businesses in each region of the UK became insolvent, or were unable to pay their debts, from March 2020 to September 2021.
Norwich was most affected, with 49 insolvencies in the region, meaning that 8.27 out of 100 retail businesses closed their doors. Norwich suffered most during Winter of 2020, when high case numbers sent them into Tier IV closing down non-essential businesses.
Newcastle upon Tyne was also heavily affected, with 33 retail insolvencies during that same period. However, the proportion of insolvent businesses was significantly lower than that of Norwich, with 3.36 out of 100 retail businesses unable to pay their debts.
Rapidly changing lockdown restrictions led to much of the decline in retail businesses, as shoppers and business owners were not confident in terms of what kind of retail was safe or legal to engage in. Wholesale Clearance’s Managing Director Karl Baxter explains the issue.
“With strict lockdowns forcing temporary closures and subsequent changes to guidelines, this has no doubt devastated a once thriving industry and put fear into once confident shoppers,” Baxter says.
Despite the overall decline in retail, research from Pollinate suggests that the pandemic has led more people to support their local shops in an effort to keep the high street afloat. In an international survey, 53% of people stated that shopping locally was more important than before due to the pandemic.
It is not yet clear if more restrictions will come in light of Omicron, but as Baxter explains, it is essential to shop local if your high street is to survive.
“In the new year, hopefully, restrictions aren’t to blame for subsequent insolvencies,” Baxter says, “However, to help your favourite shops from closing down, we must support the high street and local businesses.”