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High-street retailers, pub chains and airlines are among the companies to warn of the impact the surprise imposition of a second lockdown in England will have on their businesses.
The new restrictions in England mean that non-essential shops and all pubs and restaurants will be forced to close from Thursday until at least 2 December. Domestic and international travel will also be banned, except for work, education or other legally permitted reasons.
Jonathan Neame, the chief executive of Shepherd Neame, one of Britain’s oldest breweries, criticised the government for a “fourth change of strategy affecting hospitality within the last six weeks”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the company had already made 10% of its roles redundant, and the loss of the crucial Christmas trading period could be particularly damaging for the sector’s long-term prospects.
“I fear there will be a substantial number more redundancies, and particularly in city areas because it’s very difficult to see how city centres are going to revive any time soon,” he said.
“There is, I’m afraid, zero trust within hospitality about the government’s strategy at this moment in time and there’s a real sense that we’re going into lockdown for what is purported to be one month but in reality could be through to March. That would be absolutely catastrophic for the sector.”
Neame also criticised restrictions on selling takeaway beer once the pubs close. “Now we’re told that all the beer that is in pub cellars, we can’t even sell a pint of ale as a takeaway with a meal during lockdown, so we’ve got to tip that all down the drain,” he said.
Primark owner Associated British Foods said it would lose £375m in sales from the high-street clothing retailer because of the new English lockdown and other restrictions in key European markets. In an update on Monday it said that 57% of its shops would be closed temporarily from Thursday.
GVC Holdings, the owner of betting brands including Ladbrokes and Coral, issued a profit warning, estimating that the latest restrictions, including the closure of high-street branches in England and Europe, will cost it £37m.
The government also faced criticism over its handling of the lockdown announcement. The first leaks of the intention to impose a new lockdown were reported on Friday evening, after UK markets closed. The reports prompted a scramble from the government to flesh out the details of the lockdown, as well as confusion among businesses.
The boss of Britain’s biggest airport group, Manchester Airlines Group, hit out at the government for its “shocking” neglect of the aviation and travel industry, and accused the prime minister of “effectively shutting down his business” via Twitter.
Charlie Cornish, the chief executive of the group, which includes Manchester and London Stansted airports, said airports would be forced to act quickly to secure their future after the new travel ban.
MAG is planning to cut 900 jobs. Cornish said urgent government support was now needed to prevent more job losses in an industry which had been buffeted by “chaotic changes in policy” throughout the pandemic. No dedicated package of support has been given to aviation, despite early indications from the chancellor that specific measures would be considered.
Cornish said there had been no warning or discussion with the industry about the travel ban.
He said: “Given the huge impact on the hundreds of thousands of people working in the aviation and travel industry, it is shocking that the prime minister didn’t consider the shutdown of international travel worthy of mention … [but] symbolic of the way government has neglected UK aviation and the role it plays our economy from day one of this pandemic.”
The share price of British Airways owner International Airlines Group lost 1.8%, while Jet2, the Leeds-based airline, lost 3.2%, and easyJet shares fell steeply in opening trading, before recovering to a small gain by midday. Sportswear retailer JD Sports was the worst performer on the FTSE 100 index, with its shares falling 4.4%.