12 April 2021

Government needs to help businesses rebuild customer confidence – industry bosses

12 April 2021

The Government needs to work with the hospitality sector and retailers to rebuild customer confidence and help businesses that are “hanging on by their fingertips”, industry bosses have said.

Business chiefs said that, although the return to the shops may seem “scary” to the public, there is no reason why shops and restaurants cannot come back with “strength and positivity”.

It came as beer gardens and non-essential retailers across England prepared to reopen their doors as part of the latest easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

HEALTH Coronavirus (PA Graphics)

Julian Metcalfe, chief executive of Itsu restaurants, acknowledged that customers are “a bit nervous” about returning to retail.

“We take it incredibly seriously and we’re now in a good position to offer a safe environment,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Of course… everyone is a bit nervous… it’s scary.

“(But) there’s no reason we can’t come back with real strength and positivity.”

Asked if he expects as many customers as before the pandemic, he said: “I hope more, as we get our confidence back.

“We have to rebuild our confidence and our energies, now more than ever before.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the Government also has a part to play in supporting businesses and encouraging customers back.

“It’s a first small step in a very long journey to recovery,” she told Sky News.

“The pandemic has absolutely seen an acceleration in the closing of the Great British pub… We desperately need to be helping these businesses that are hanging on by their fingertips.

“The reality is it’s going to take a while to regain that confidence, but we hope that we have proven in those environments that we can host people safely.

“The Government really needs to stand by us and work with us to help the public feel confident in coming back to hospitality.”

Retailers say they have put in place multiple measures to make their customers feel safe and secure, but others have highlighted that the public also has a role to play.

Speaking on Sky News, British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “(Businesses) are very excited and desperate to welcome their customers back (with)… the focus on safety.

“Members of the public have a part to play in following the signage, the guidance that we get given, queueing if we need to… and all of the safety features that are in place.”

Restrictions are set to be lifted further on May 17, but Mr Metcalfe said he does not think the Government roadmap should be speeded up or changed.

“It’s slow but it’s purposeful and that’s what everyone desperately needs, and what we need is clarity,” he said.

“I don’t think they should change it now, I think we should stick to it.

“We all have a role to play but I don’t think they should suddenly change the rules for the 100th time.”

He added: “Human beings love being together, but we’ll be OK, we’ll thrive as long as we do our jobs beautifully.”

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