Future of Britain's High Street 'hangs in the balance', warn shopkeepers

The future of the high street is 'hanging in the balance' after a huge number of job losses and store closures as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a union leader has warned.

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shopworkers' union Usdaw, said 125,000 retail jobs have been lost this year.

He added 14,000 shops have closed.

'We are facing a massive crisis, shops are struggling to survive and the future of the high street hanging in the balance,' he told the annual TUC Congress.

'The Government has to intervene. Do we want to see high streets go to the wall or do we want to save millions of jobs?

'We desperately need a recovery plan to get the industry back on its feet.'

A closing down sale for Ultimate Outdoors store in Kingston-Upon-Thames, London

A closing down sale for Ultimate Outdoors store in Kingston-Upon-Thames, London

People queue in the rain at the Laura Ashley closing down sale in Henley-on-Thames, Oxford

People queue in the rain at the Laura Ashley closing down sale in Henley-on-Thames, Oxford

The future of the high street is 'hanging in the balance' after a huge number of job losses and store closures as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a union leader has warned (pictured: general view of boarded up shops on Margate High Street, Kent)

The future of the high street is 'hanging in the balance' after a huge number of job losses and store closures as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a union leader has warned (pictured: general view of boarded up shops on Margate High Street, Kent)

Mr Lillis said high streets were in decline before the pandemic, hit by vacant properties and job losses.

Usdaw is calling for an urgent recovery plan to include reform of business rates, a review of rental values and lease arrangements, and a new deal for retail, distribution and home delivery workers based around a real living wage and guaranteed hours.

Fears over a wave of coronavirus redundancies were fueled today as figures showed another fall in payroll jobs and a spike in unemployment.

The unemployment rate rose from 3.9 per cent to 4.1 per cent in the quarter to July - the first time it has increased since the pandemic hit, and the highest in two years. A total of 1.4million are out of work, up by 62,000.

The Millets outdoors shop in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire is closing down

The Millets outdoors shop in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire is closing down

A man walks past a boarded up former Jack Wills shop in Eton High Street, Berkshire

A man walks past a boarded up former Jack Wills shop in Eton High Street, Berkshire

Cafe chain Costa has said 1,650 staff are at risk of redundancy as it looks to cut costs amid continued uncertainty over when trade will fully recover following the pandemic

Cafe chain Costa has said 1,650 staff are at risk of redundancy as it looks to cut costs amid continued uncertainty over when trade will fully recover following the pandemic

Coffee and sandwich chain Pret a Manger confirmed it has axed 2,800 roles from its shops

Coffee and sandwich chain Pret a Manger confirmed it has axed 2,800 roles from its shops

The estimated increase in the rate for July alone was even higher at 0.5 per cent, according to the latest official data.

Meanwhile, some 695,000 payroll jobs have gone since March, and there are 2.7million people claiming benefits.

Economists warned that the fall is the tip of the iceberg as it covers a period when the government's massive furlough scheme is in effect - with alarming predictions of mass layoffs to come when it is withdrawn completely next month. 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people on payrolls was down 36,000 in August from July. It is now 695,000 lower than in March. 

A branch of Topshop announces it's closure. Shops lie empty and boarded up in Royal Windsor Town as the decline of the High Street continues

A branch of Topshop announces it's closure. Shops lie empty and boarded up in Royal Windsor Town as the decline of the High Street continues

Shops lie empty and boarded up in Royal Windsor Town during the decline of the High Street

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Shops lie empty and boarded up in Royal Windsor Town during the decline of the High Street

A closing down sale for The Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Kingston-Upon-Thames, London

A closing down sale for The Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Kingston-Upon-Thames, London

The unemployment rate rose from 3.9 per cent to 4.1 per cent in the quarter to July - the highest in two years, according to the latest official data

The unemployment rate rose from 3.9 per cent to 4.1 per cent in the quarter to July - the highest in two years, according to the latest official data

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people on payrolls was down 36,000 in August from July. It is now 695,000 lower than in March

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people on payrolls was down 36,000 in August from July. It is now 695,000 lower than in March

It comes after coalition of retailers warned the Treasury that 10,000 jobs could be wiped out 'overnight' unless urgent action is taken to avert a deepening crisis.

Shops are still recovering from three months of store closures with trade remaining significantly down on last year as shoppers and office workers avoid town centres.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak handed high street firms a £10 billion business rates holiday in March. 

But he has been told by about 25 chains that reinstating business rates in April would force them to close 800 shops, triggering the jobs cull. The total is likely to soar once other retailers add their projections.

Bosses say a decision on any aid package must come soon or firms will assume the worst and close stores and cancel stock orders.

It comes as economists warn that jobless figures could soar above three million this winter, eclipsing record highs in the early 1980s.

The announcement that household gatherings will be capped at six has raised fears that Christmas celebrations will be limited – further dampening trade in what many retailers call the 'golden quarter'.

This month it was revealed Debenhams was set to axe 2,500 jobs across its stores and warehouses

This month it was revealed Debenhams was set to axe 2,500 jobs across its stores and warehouses

Some groups, such as New

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