Here’s what the Christmas bubble rules mean for retailers

25 November 2020, 11:38 AM
  • With a new tier system in England and a UK-wide relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions over Christmas, retailers are likely to see a festive sales boost
Here’s what the Christmas bubble rules mean for retailers

The government has revealed that up to three households will be able to meet up over Christmas, in a temporary relaxation of the new Covid-19 rules that will take effect from 2nd December.

From 23rd to 27th December, leaders of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed that people can form a “Christmas bubble” to mix in homes over the holiday – although they told the public to “think carefully” about their plans in order to limit transmission.

The measures will also include an easing of travel restrictions so that people can visit family members in other parts of the UK. However, the bubbles that are formed must be “exclusive” and cannot visit pubs or restaurants together.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that England’s second lockdown measures will be replaced by a new three-tier system after the current rules end.

Under the “tougher” three-tier system, which is set to be in place until March 2021, non-essential shops can reopen and pubs and restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 11pm.

While areas await news of what tier they are in, the announcements bring a welcome sense of certainty for both retailers and consumers ahead of the key Christmas trading period.

Emma Mosey, who runs Minskip Farm Shop in York, said that although her shop has been open throughout the pandemic, she has already seen an increase in Christmas food orders since the announcements were made, “which is great news,” she said.

“We also have a restaurant here, and we are waiting eagerly for Thursday to find out which tier we will fall into to see whether we can reopen. We are feeling positive about ending the year with a bang, particularly if we can reopen our restaurant, too,” Emma said.

Consumer confidence to see Christmas boost
The news comes as research from Mintel reveals that many shoppers are keen to celebrate after a tough year. It found that 77% of grocery shoppers say it is important to have a good Christmas after the events of 2020, which will be welcome news for fine food shops.

With the relaxation of the Covid-19 rules over Christmas, Nick Carroll, associate director of retail research at Mintel, said: “Customers will be wanting to make this Christmas as special as possible and purse strings are likely to be released more than they have been so far in 2020.”

Mintel expects total retail sales in November and December – including food and non-food – to hit £81.7bn, down just 0.4% compared to last year.

However, Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said that a recovery plan is still needed for SMEs. “For many small businesses the next few weeks should be the busiest period of the entire year, but city centres, towns and high streets have seen footfall collapse, and it’s vital that there is a clear path for recovery. So that’s why for whichever tier a small business is placed under, the government should match this with a strong, proportionate level of support.

“The upcoming spending review from the chancellor will be a crucial moment for him to reiterate his support for all small firms across the board,” he said.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said the end of the lockdown will help to preserve jobs and the economy. In fact, new research by Visa and the Centre for Economic & Business Research found that consumers can double the amount of money that stays within their local economy by shopping with independent, local businesses. According to the research, for every £10 spent with a local business, more than a third (£3.80) stays within the area.

More than half of Brits (54%) plan to do some of their Christmas shopping locally this year, either online or in-store, the survey found, while four in five (81%) are supporting local businesses as much or more than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to the swelling support for local shops and the desire to enjoy a festive end to 2020, despite the circumstances, fine food retailers may be in for a merry Christmas after all.

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