Liverpool retailers need clear guidance, says BID CEO

As a Government health official warns about the possible need to keep wearing masks, the CEO of Liverpool BID Company says retailers need clear guidance before they reopen in April. Tony McDonough reports

Bill Addy
Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company


Liverpool’s retailers and hospitality outlets have have had enough of “stop-start” COVID restrictions and need clear guidance as soon as possible so they are ready for reopening.

That’s the message from the chief executive of the Liverpool BID Company, Bill Addy, who in an interview with LBN, said he believed Liverpool city centre will come roaring back once restrictions are lifted with people keen to get out and about again.

According to the Government’s road map out of the pandemic, all retail could be allowed to open by April 12 if COVID cases continue to fall and the vaccine roll-out remains on schedule. From that date bars and restaurant may also be able to start serving people outdoors. All restrictions could be lifted by June 21.

However, speaking on television at the weekend, Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said face masks and social distancing could continue for “a few years” as we try to live with COVID-19. Her comments raised questions about what kind of measures shops, bars and restaurants will need to have in place when they reopen.

Liverpool BID represents around 1,500 business in the city centre, spanning the commercial and retail districts, excluding Liverpool ONE. Mr Addy said many businesses had been hit hard by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. As a result, the BID’s own income, which comes from a levy paid by businesses, was down by 40%.

However, he said: “Despite what they have been through many of the businesses we spoke to are optimistic about their prospects. We saw last summer how footfall bounced back after the first lockdown. But our retailers will need to understand what the regulations will be. They have had enough of the stop-start restrictions.”

As well as being CEO of the Liverpool BID Company, Mr Addy chairs Liverpool’s Visitor Economy Network and sits on the UK’s High Streets Taskforce. He is also a member of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial strategy reopening retail working group.

He acknowledges that the pandemic has accelerated the rise of e-commerce but adds the high street still has a lot to offer. He said: “We were already seeing a trend of a move towards online retail and COVID has increased the speed of that change. People find shopping with retailers such as Amazon convenient.

“But I also think that once the restrictions are lifted people will want to come out and shop again. It isn’t just about buying things. People come out for the experience and for the social aspect. They want to come out and meet their friends again so I think we will see a strong recovery.”

That shift in retail dynamics is continuing to see casualties on the high street. Earlier this year online retail Asos has agreed a deal to acquire the brands and stock of Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge in a £330m deal.

However, the deal does not include the bricks and mortar stores. Those outlets include a 68,000 sq ft unit in Liverpool city centre which is almost certain to close. And another fashion retailer, boohoo, has acquired the Debenhams brand, but not the stores. This means the 180,000 sq ft Liverpool outlet will close once the stock is sold.

Barratt House
People will return in numbers once restrictions are lifted, says Bill Addy


Both of those units are in Liverpool ONE but Mr Addy acknowledges the knock-on effects of such events for the whole city centre. However, he adds that Liverpool’s retail core is now much more “robust” than in the past and he believes it will continue to thrive.

“Liverpool is a city with a diverse visitor offer – from football to the Philharmonic,” he explained. “We have some very strong positives. We have already lost some big retail names over the past few years but we are a robust city.”

He says the alternative offered by e-commerce means bricks and mortar retailers need to be on top of their game, continue to innovate and keep listening to their customers. He added: “Retailers need to be clear on what their offer is.

“Take a look at Primark. It doesn’t even have an online store. But they understand that their customers want quality fashion at the right price point. When the shops reopen in Liverpool city centre Primark will have the biggest queue outside. Retailers need to understand who their customers are and what they want.”

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