Not all retailers will survive lockdown, warns Timpson owner

Some high street retailers are unlikely to open their doors after the coronavirus lockdown, the founder of shoe repair chain Timpson has predicted.

Timpson will be opening 40 of its 2,150 stores that are based in supermarkets or that have dry-cleaning facilities this week.

The shop’s owner, Sir John Timpson, said he was not expecting the re-openings to be simple and suggested some fellow high street names would not survive to see the end of the strict social distancing measures put in place by the Government.

The Prime Minister ordered all but shops deemed essential, such as supermarkets, dry cleaners and pharmacies, to shut last month as part of measures designed to stem the spread of Covid-19.

In a statement marking his return to work following his own brush with the deadly virus, Boris Johnson urged the country on Monday to remain patient with the restrictions.

Sir John, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said: “My guess is (the high street) is going to look somewhat different.

“There are going to be some names that don’t come back.”

He said the “main interest” was keeping workers and customers safe as the chain’s key-cutting shops opened their shutters once again, with face masks to be given to staff and screens put in place.

Sir John, whose company also owns Snappy Snaps and Johnsons dry cleaners, added: “Overall we are quite concerned about how long it is going to take to get all businesses properly up and running.

“It wasn’t a very pleasant job to close all our shops but it was quite easy to do.

“It is going to be a lot more difficult to open them up and get them going.”

Timpson Covid
Sir John Timpson, chairman of Timpson (Ian Nicholson/PA)

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said the issue of employee safety should be at the “top of the Prime Minister’s in-tray” now he has returned to work.

As part of “tough new measures” to protect workers, the TUC has called for businesses wanting to re-open to first pass risk assessments carried out by unions or health and safety officials.

“Everyone wants people to get back to work safely so we can get the economy back on its feet,” Ms O’Grady said.

“But workers have to know and be confident that their health and safety is being put first.

“Otherwise we are going to see the virus spread again and be back to square one.”

Practical measures required, Ms O’Grady argued, included administering social distancing in the workplace, staggering shifts and making changes to ensure public transport was safe to use.

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