Lockdown measures have cost non-food retailers around £22 billion in lost sales since the start of the pandemic, according to new figures.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the closure of non-essential stores and distancing restrictions have weighed on UK high streets over the past 12 months.
The trade body has called on the Government to take action on business rates, rents and grants ahead of the Chancellor’s spring budget next month in order to help the sector’s recovery.
It requested an extension to the current business rates holiday which is due to expire at the end of March.
Earlier this week, 18 retail leaders including supermarket bosses called on the Chancellor to extend the relief and to help put brick and mortar stores on a “level playing field” with online rivals.
The BRC said retailers contributed £17 billion in business taxes in 2019, collecting a further £46 billion in VAT.
The group said an extension to the moratorium on debt enforcement by landlords will “support thousands of retailers” who face accumulating rents even while their stores are unable to trade.
It also called for the decision to apply EU state aid limits to lockdown grants to be reversed and called on the Chancellor to remove “all bureaucratic restrictions stopping businesses receiving these vital support funds”.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “After 2020 proved to be the worst year on record, it is essential that the Chancellor uses the spring budget to support those businesses hardest hit by the pandemic.
“Vital support in the form of an extension to the business rates relief and moratorium on debt enforcement, as well as removing state aid caps on Covid business grants, would relieve struggling businesses of bills they cannot currently pay and allow them to trade their way to recovery.
“Tackling the challenge of rates, rents and grants should be the Government’s immediate priority to ensuring the survival and revival of non-essential retailers and protecting the jobs of hundreds of thousands of retail workers across the country.”