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High street dealt a ‘fatally dangerous’ blow: Expert predicts 250,000 jobs could go

PUBLISHED: 10:35 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:12 02 April 2020

People observe social distancing while queuing at Waitrose supermarket. Picture: Morgan Harlow/PA Wire

People observe social distancing while queuing at Waitrose supermarket. Picture: Morgan Harlow/PA Wire

PA Wire

A Norwich analyst says the future is “bleak” for retail which could see 250,000 workers lose their jobs once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

It comes as shoppers are struggling to get food delivered online despite March being the busiest month on record for supermarkets.

Grocery sales rose by more than 20pc last month – amounting to £10.8 billion, higher than levels seen at Christmas – but many people are still unable to get a delivery slot or click and collect time for food.

Prof Joshua Bamford, director of the Centre of Retail Research based in Rose Lane, has warned although supermarkets are recruiting hundreds of extra people to cope, the high street will suffer “fatally” after coronavirus.

Police patrol the supermarkets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Attleborough, making sure the public keep the 2m social distancing rule. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPolice patrol the supermarkets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Attleborough, making sure the public keep the 2m social distancing rule. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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His research has estimated 20,000 stores nationwide will be lost by the end of the year compared to 4,547 which closed permanently last year.

“More than 250,000 people could lose their jobs in retail, many shops face a fatally dangerous situation and won’t recover as coronavirus came at a time when they were most vulnerable.

Prof Joshua Bamford, director at the Centre of Retail Research. Pic: ArchantProf Joshua Bamford, director at the Centre of Retail Research. Pic: Archant

“The problem we have got now with supermarkets unable to cope with online demand is because online groceries actually only accounts for 7pc of supermarket sales. Supermarkets are trying to meet the online demand but getting a slap from the government asking them to deliver to elderly and vulnerable people and hence the horrors because they just can’t stand up to the plate.

“In Norfolk, where there is a large proportion of elderly people, it’s a problem and because people can’t get delivery slots, they are going into a supermarket and doing a big shop, double or treble what they’s normally buy, which is making the situation worse.

“Generally, looking ahead, it’s a bleak picture, the news really isn’t so good for retail.”

No delivery slot or click and collect is available for any time in the future at any of the major supermarket unless you are an older or vulnerable person. But even those people are finding it difficult as the admin checks are taking so long to verify their eligibility with supermarkets. It means people are venturing out of isolation to an early slot, being given by most supermarkets for elderly and vulnerable people as well as NHS workers.

Other attempts at getting food delivered to people including £30 food boxes, created by Morrisons and Marks & Spencer, sold out instantly.

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