Several big names in the British retail and fashion industry are urging the government to launch a ‘Shop Out To Help out Scheme’ to assist struggling independent stores as they prepare to reopen on 12 April.
Here’s what we know so far about this scheme and how it might work.
The Shop Out To Help Out scheme: what do we know?
The coronavirus pandemic has been extremely harsh on retailers, with non-essential stores bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s effects.
Many had to shut during lockdown. Even when they have been open, most have experienced low sales. This is due to customers being either too afraid to shop in person or not having enough money to spend.
The ‘Shop Out To Help Out’ scheme which is being proposed by a campaign group known as Save the Street and marketing firm Appear Here aims to help out these retailers.
It would follow the structure of last August’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme. Under this scheme, diners at participating restaurants received a government-funded 50% discount of up to £10 per person on food and non-alcoholic drinks every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for the entire month.
Similarly, under the Shop Out To Help Out scheme, shoppers could get 50% off the cost of goods bought at independent retailers, up to £10, from Monday to Wednesday each week for a whole month.
Customers would be able to use this discount only once per transaction. The government would then reimburse retailers for the discount.
Who could benefit from the Shop Out To Help Out scheme?
The main targets of the scheme are independent British non-essential retail businesses. It would apply to those with fewer than 10 staff members that sell through brick-and-mortar stores.
As the Save the Street campaign group says, without the scheme, these independent retailers might not be able to survive.
According to the British Retail Consortium, non-essential retail stores lost an estimated £22 billion in sales in 2020 as most remained shut. Additionally, more than 11,000 outlets permanently disappeared from the high street, shopping centres and retail parks, according to the Guardian.
The Shop Out To Help out Scheme might be just what the remaining stores need to stay afloat. It’s hoped that the scheme could encourage consumers to ditch screens and support their local shops.
Some of the high profile backers of the scheme include beauty entrepreneur Charlotte Tilbury, fashion designer Henry Holland, retail consultant Mary Portas, Chrissie Rucker (owner of The White Company), Nick Wheeler (owner of Charles Tyrwhitt), and British Fashion Council chair Caroline Rush.
How much could it cost the government?
Save the Street says the scheme could cost roughly the same as the ‘Eat Out To Help Out Scheme’. The latter cost about £849 million in total.
They claim that the Treasury could cover the scheme’s costs by imposing an online sales tax. This is an option that the government is reviewing.
Alternatively, they propose that the government use the more than £1.8 billion in business rates relief that supermarkets have returned to cover the costs of the scheme.
What other support is available for businesses?
As of now, the Treasury is yet to say whether it might pursue the idea.
The good news is that the government has already announced a £5 billion rescue package for the high street. Under the Restart Grant, non-essential retail business will be able to claim grants of up to £6,000.
In addition, shops don’t have to pay business rates until July. They can also continue to take advantage of the furlough scheme that has been extended until September.
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